by Sonia Luévano and Naomi DeLay

Painting in oils, 2022

My name is Naomi Delay, and I am the scientist involved in this work. In my pursuit of science, I started graduate school at UNM in August of 2019. My mindset has gone through quite a shift from the start of my degree to now as the world also experienced a very dramatic shift in March of 2020. My research in graduate school is mainly focused on aqueous geochemistry. It is a fancy word for how hydrology and geology coincide. I am fascinated with the interaction of water and how solutes are released based on different chemical reactions within the water system. My focus area is in the Manzano Mountains in Cibola National Forest. I study springs in this region to understand the flow pathways and the sources of these spring-systems. These spring-systems affect the quality of the water sources that many communities rely on in the region. Additionally, these systems are affected by processes that go on around them. Forest fire plays a big part in this system when considering the most recent forest fire, the Doghead Fire in 2016.

In collaborating with the artist, Sonia Luévano, we both wanted to show the importance of these interactions with all the elements (fire, water, earth, and air) and how they manifest on a New Mexico landscape. I knew I wanted to draw from my current research, so this work is about the interplay of these many elements within my research. Working in science, the one aspect that can be missing is the emotional and mental connection to the work. I believe that art can bridge that gap. It allows a space for self-expression, and it allows yourself to be vulnerable with the creative process. I wanted to draw inspiration from past artists who thought of science and art together. Leonardo da Vinci is one such artist that Sonia and I connected with. Sonia really understood the importance of conveying the mood of the piece, with the burnt tree forms, fogginess (sfumato) and the earthiness of the landscape. I think it is important to show the value of creativity and using your imagination when it comes to doing anything in life, especially in science. What better way than collaborating with an artist to demonstrate the emotion and the process behind the hard work.