Graduate Combines Art & Chemistry to Create Unique Masterpieces

FIU artist Paola Gracey, also known as the Art Chemist pictured at work. Photo courtesy of paolastudios Instagram.

Irina Barneda/Staff Writer

Paola Gracey aspired to be both an artist and a chemist, and even though chemistry and art are two subjects that rarely intertwine with each other, the FIU alumni found a way to have the two work together hand-in-hand.

“Often my knowledge as a chemist inspires my work, so I think I’d become obsolete if I let go of my scientific side,” said Gracey. “Both art and chemistry are part of who I am, and they go hand in hand for me.”

The Louisiana native who moved to Miami at the age of five, graduated from FIU in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. 

Despite her focus on chemistry, Gracey did not lose touch with her artistic side, mainly because it was a coping mechanism for her stress. 

“All the chem and math courses I had to take got a little overwhelming, so every semester I’d always take a painting class on the side to help me de-stress.”

States of Matter Series- Solid Phase, 2007, 36″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of

It was there she began joining art with science, which inspired her to become the “Art Chemist” she is today. 

“I was working on a very large piece at the FIU studio one day,” she said. “I was mixing the acrylics on my palette, and I had several layers covered with saran wrap because I had to leave for some reason.”

As the late Bob Ross would say, this “happy little accident” created a unique style that instantly clicked with Gracey.

“When I came back, the piece had dried that way… kind of like a swirl,” she said, “I thought it cool so I peeled it off and incorporated it into the piece I was working on.”

Gracey inherited  her love for both art and science from her family

“Both my grandmother and my grandmother’s sister were artists, so I was always exposed to it as a kid and developed a passion for it,” said Gracey. “As for the sciences, I was very influenced by my dad who has a Ph.D. in animal nutrition.”

During the day, Gracey works  as a chemist at a pharmaceutical company. She spends the rest of her time working as a resident artist for a non-profit organization in Wynwood called the Center for Visual Communications.  

The time it takes her to create a painting varies, depending on the size and the layers of resin needed.

“Each layer of resin I use takes 28-48 hours before I can go onto the next layer. I could have a smaller painting done in a couple of weeks, but a larger piece probably around a month,” said Gracey.

To find inspiration, she jots down everyday things she sees while on walks and running errands. Her work is mostly impulsive as there is slight planning that goes into it, but it is mostly organic and in-the-moment.

In her paintings, Gracey integrates symbolic representations, scientific concepts, and chemical equations. 

Kinetic e, V-2013, 30″ x  40″ x 2.5″, acrylic on canvas.. Photo courtesy of

“My favorite piece is one from my Kinetic-e series which is a solid orange,” she said. “The green and blue colors I used in the drip came together in such a shrill way that screams Miami.”

To aid in manipulating the paint, Gracey incorporates various techniques including dripping, pouring, mixing, and tipping. She paints both physically and chemically and treats each painting as an experiment. 

“I document everything as I would in the laboratory,” she said. “That’s the geeky side to me.” 

To help her obtain recognition in a competitive world, Gracey branded herself as an artist.

“I think I have made a name for myself because I don’t say no,” she said. “I started off getting invited to participate in a lot of small shows and I’d work my way up from those.”

According to Gracey, while these small shows did help establish her as a respectable artist, it wasn’t until the age of social media that she really gained public recognition. 

“Companies such as Sacchi and Sacchi Worldwide NYC saw my Instagram and reached out,” she said. “So did Wieden & Kennedy about working with Coca Cola and Delta for the first-ever flying art gallery.”

Delta, Coca Cola, Tray Art Project, In-flight Art Gallery Project. Photo courtesy of

Gracey’s work has also been featured on Business Insider as one of the top ten most interesting painting techniques, along with Daily Mail Online, CreativPaper, Creative Review, and the LA Times.

She was also invited by Disney as an exhibiting artist at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, but because of work and her two kids, Gracey was unable to get around to it. However, she has intentions of starting it up soon. 

“The new project will have to do with the UV spectrum, and so I want to incorporate light into the translucent resin and show each color of the visual spectrum,” she said. “I am excited to work with this new series.”

More of Gracey’s work can be viewed  at The Center for Visual Communication located at 541 NW 27th St. Miami, FL 33127. For further information and artwork, visit Paola’s Instagram @paolastudios, her website, and studio website

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