Senior Expresses Self Through Instagram Art


Chiles shares his cathartic doodles with the world via Instagram. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Bingus has a floppy head, a floppy nose and socks for hands, which are great for puppet shows. Bort has a five-head, a pointy nose and two left feet, so turning right makes him very uncomfortable. “He just looks like a Bort,” says Nolan Chiles, FCRH ’23. He came up with Bingus’ name while watching a YouTube video on funny cat names. Chiles liked the quirky name of the hairless cat he found. Bingus and Bort became the alter ego duo, animating his thoughts in a visual journal.

“I like to journal and drawing is a good way of expressing profound ideas or thoughts or even silly ones,” said Chiles.

Chiles is a cell and molecular neuroscience major, with a Catholic studies concentration: a seemingly polar adjacent to the arts. But Chiles insists “there are absolutely elements of creativity in science.” Chiles taught himself how to code for his research over the summer. He created a computational model of the fruit fly smelling circuit in the brain. This could help in discovering new drugs to treat cancer. He is also exploring how different visual scenes and contexts are encoded in different brain pathways using artificial neural networks (a.k.a. code).

“That’s a really boring sounding thing, but you have to approach problem solving in really creative ways, so I spend a lot of time not in front of the computer screen, just mentally thinking through how I want the flow of the program to go before actually writing the code,” said Chiles. He believes that engaging with a subject beyond the textbook, through different disciplines like art, not only makes the learning process become more interesting, it also makes information more digestible.

The last time Chiles took an art class was in eighth grade. It was a requirement to graduate. At his high school, Fayetteville Manlius, students were selected to take art. He wasn’t one of them.

Chiles hasn’t opened a sketchbook since middle school. His art class heavily focused on hyperrealistic drawings, which averted him from the subject. He recalls going through the painstaking effort sketching a stapler with perfect proportions. But since he’s picked up the pencil again, he’s taken up a different style.

He adds color and shadow with watercolor, a freeform paint that spreads unpredictability across the image. Chiles uses an ink pen to outline and accentuate the wavy figures. It’s not exact science.

“That’s why I like Bingus and Bort because they are purposely squiggly and messy,” Chiles said.

Most people keep their journals private, but Chiles made his account, @bingus_n_bort, on Instagram, where he shares his animated journal and image-making process. “I feel like it’s something people can relate to,” said Chiles. Rather than expressing his thoughts in long-winded paragraphs, he does so through his animated creatures, accompanied by a simple phrase or play on words. Some don’t have any words at all. He just lets the images do all of the talking.