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Artist Dana Levine watches for sparks in the science of life

Artists and scientists strive to see nature with a fresh eye. As a scientist-turned-artist Dana Levine now explores the inner richness of nature and the human form in a visual medium, looking for the structure underneath the surface, using the original colors human eyes combine together. She said her thoughts are best painted “in the soft and wonderful colors of pastel and watercolor.”

In the last few years, Levine has used digital photography to convey vulnerability in people and express ideas in natural and man-made forms. “I look for beauty in unexpected, unlikely places,” she said.

Levine is a member of the San Diego Watercolor Society and has been on the board of directors for the La Jolla Art Association since 1999. Her work has won several awards and is shown regularly at art associations and galleries around town, Right now, it’s on exhibit at the La Jolla Library through March.

What brought you to La Jolla?

Upon retirement, my husband and I looked around for a city where we would not get tired of shoveling snow out of the driveway. We chose San Diego because of the wealth of cultural and educational experiences and access to good medical care.

What makes this town special to you?

It’s the informality of the lifestyle and the friendliness of people. You can be outdoors year round and every day the ocean is a different color. And the UCSD campus is practically in our backyard. One thing we noticed soon after we moved here was that you see lots of people holding hands and you seldom hear children crying.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

Two things, definitely: Improve education in the public schools and do away with mismanagement in city government. And (one wish) to invent a magic potion allowing people to make more intelligent decisions.

Who or what inspires you?

People who “give back” inspire me, those whose careers are devoted to improving the lives of others and making their community a better place to live.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Abraham Lincoln (because he did what he knew to be right), Rembrandt or Vermeer (so we could steer the conversation towards art), Albert Einstein (so he could explain the Theory of Relativity to me so I might understand it) and, if he is not available, then Richard Feynman (who would explain it with more panache than Einstein), Linus Pauling (so we could discuss the nature of chemical bonds in proteins), Julia Child (who would help with the cooking and tell me it is OK to eat butter), and my dad and my two grandmothers (so I could tell them how much I miss them).

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I just finished reading “Water for Elephants,” a great can’t-put-it-down story by Sara Gruen, and “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder, about Dr. Paul Farmer who provides medical care to the poorest people in Haiti.

What is your most-prized possession?

Although they are not possessions, what I cherish most is my husband and my daughters and their families.

What do you do for fun?

I love to paint things with lots of atmosphere and take photographs of people with lots of attitude.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

On June 6, 1967, I graduated from Columbia University with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and gave birth to my first child. Both were major achievements and required a lot of hard work.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

I have always advised my children to try their best at whatever they set out to do, and, when I am on a diet, I tell myself that whipped cream tastes like shaving cream.