Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist at Rockefeller University, was at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory studying the structures of human proteins, when his and Steve Miller’s worlds collided. Miller, an artist who splits his time between New York City and the Hamptons, was visiting Brookhaven to better understand the types of advanced imaging that scientists use.
The meeting inspired Miller to incorporate some of MacKinnon’s scientific notes and computer models into a series of paintings. It seemed logical to him to combine the creative output of an artist and a scientist. ”We’re all asking questions, trying to understand what forces make or shape who we are,” says Miller.
The pair had a similar interest, according to Marvin Heiferman, curator of an exhibition of 11 of Miller’s paintings now at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. “MacKinnon was investigating how potassium ions moved across cell membranes. Miller’s work engages itself with the crossing of borders as well: moving back and forth between photography and painting, shifting from micro to macro scale, combining representational and abstract imagery and what is theorized with what can be seen,” writes Heiferman in an introduction to the exhibition, aptly named “Crossing the Line.”