Emory Report
April 27, 2009
Volume 61, Number 29


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April 27
, 2009
Getting hooked on art and science

By Carol Clark

“Let’s draw a flaming humpy, shall we?” said Ray Troll, as his yellow crayon swooped across a sheet of black paper. “This isn’t going to be an old Army-green humpback salmon. Let’s make it psychedelic. Let’s give it some color, let’s give it some funk!”

The science-and-art creativity workshop took on a surreal tone from the start. Students and faculty gathered around Troll, a former fishmonger turned natural history artist, to get his perspective on light — and on life.
“I’m imagining that there’s a hot-pink light shining on the salmon from over here,” he said. “I think of highlights as almost like candy. You don’t want too much of it. Just that little sparkle in the eye, a glint on the tongue.”

Troll is based in Ketchikan, Alaska, but his quirky, aquatic images turn up in museums, scientific journals and murals around the globe. He is best known for T-shirts bearing slogans like: “If you have to smoke, smoke salmon” and “The Da Vinci Cod.” His “Spawn Till You Die” shirt was worn by Seth Rogan in the movie “Pineapple Express,” a member of the band Motley Crue in concert, and by his friend, Tommy, during his tour of the White House.

Troll’s lively visit to campus, including public talks, was sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies, the Center for Creativity & Arts, the Visual Arts Department and the Center for Science Education.

“When you look at a fish, there’s just so many patterns within the patterns,” Troll said, studding his salmon with bright, purple dots.

He moved to Alaska in 1983 to take a job at his sister’s seafood shack, “Hallelujah Halibut,” and work “the slime line” at a commercial fishery. He designed a “Let’s Spawn” T-shirt for a local festival, and the rest is fish-story.

“Get in touch with your inner 5-year-old,” Troll extolled the workshop participants. They dug into the neon colors and drew fantastic creatures of their own, including what looked like a cross between a dinosaur and a mermaid.

“Art relaxes me, and it’s fun,” said Julie Chang, a freshman biology major, as she sketched a giant white eye floating next to a multi-colored sunflower. “I want to be a surgeon. I’m sure creativity will come into play because not all surgeries are the same, and not all bodies are the same.”

Kelly Gracia drew a lavender bird in flight. “People think that art and science are distinct categories but I think they’re related,” said Garcia, a freshman art major who also plans to go to medical school.