Student Voices: Bernardo Da Silva

My name is Bernardo Da Silva, and I am a senior in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. While science, specifically biology, is at the core of my academic passions, my interest in art and art history has thrived during my time at Princeton, and the Princeton University Art Museum has served as a key catalyst throughout this process.

As a biologist and a future physician, I have taken a course load primarily devoted to the sciences—yet I was lucky enough to have been assigned a writing seminar on American art during my first semester. My professor ensured that we took advantage of the collections at the Museum, and I found myself more and more captivated by the Museum, and by the field of art history itself, as the semester progressed. Since then, I have strived to enroll in as many art-related courses as possible during my undergraduate career, and I have found other ways to stay involved with art and the Museum given the limited time I have available for electives.

I have worked as a student tour guide at the Museum since my sophomore year, and I regularly volunteer with the weekly Art for Families programs. Not only have these opportunities allowed me to learn more about art through firsthand experiences, they have also given me the chance to engage with and learn from the wonderful Museum staff (e.g., curators, security officers, and guest lecturers) and the diverse array of visitors who frequent the Museum. Most recently, I have worked as a McCrindle Academic Year Intern within the Education Department at the Museum, and I am proud to say that the research I have conducted on works from different curatorial areas will have a lasting impact on the Museum.

Many of my peers still wonder how my interest in the sciences can possibly apply to art. But a quick look at Wenceslaus Hollar’s grotesque figures after Leonardo da Vinci, or Arthur Dove’s applications of color theory in his Sunrise, Northport Harbor (1929), for example, proves that art and science are often in conversation with one another. While I do enjoy exploring these connections, my passion for art and the Museum goes beyond my scientific interests. Part of the reason that I love science is because it allows me to uncover the secrets of life, notably why things happen and why we, as a collective species, are the way we are. Art allows me to explore human nature through a different lens. Instead of answering why, art allows me to explore who we are, what we have accomplished, and what we can learn from past experiences. A feathered headdress introduces me to Cameroonian culture, a neoclassical masterpiece by Jacques-Louis David inspires me to defend my values in these tense times, and Pop art paintings by Andy Warhol force me to question what we define as art. The collections at the Museum transcend time, distance, and cultures and allow visitors of any background to engage with and learn from these diverse works of art. If my four years walking through the galleries of the Museum have taught me anything, it is that art has something to offer each and every one of us. Whether it be a lesson in history, a moment of self-reflection, or simply aesthetic pleasure, there is much that we can take away from art, and I look forward to continuing to incorporate art into my life beyond my time at Princeton.