An unusual melding of art and science at the Detroit Institute of Arts will be celebrated Thursday at the UM Taubman Medical Research Institute’s sold-out gala and auction to raise funds for high-risk, high-reward medical research.

The second-annual “Evening of Art + Science” is a black-tie affair that, in addition to the art auction, will feature dinner and a reception in the museum’s Great Hall.

The artworks to be sold resulted from pairing 20 Taubman physician-researchers with an equal number of artists. Each pair was charged with getting together to discuss creativity and inspiration. From these dialogues, artists created works of art to reflect their understanding of the science practiced by each researcher.

Detroit artist Tylonn J. Sawyer connected with Dr. John Carethers, a gastroenterologist studying colon cancer. Carethers is also the chair of internal medicine at the university medical school.

“I asked John about his life and work,” said Sawyer, who teaches drawing at the College for Creative Studies. “He gave a very detailed description about his research. It was almost like I was doing scientific research on him. I ended up with five pages of notes.”

Carethers said he also sent Sawyer a number of images, including pictures of what DNA might look like in representation, a cancerous polyp and a view of the colon from within.

Sawyer rarely paints abstracts. But in this case, the artist decided he wanted to reach beyond his comfort level and paint the human body “at a much more micro level” than his figurative portraits generally allow.

“Ah!” said Carethers, pulling up an image of Sawyer’s painting online. “It looks like chromosomes,” which is pretty much what Sawyer says he was reaching for.

For his part, the doctor said he’s always believed that there’s beauty aplenty within the human body. “One of the reasons I went into medicine,” Carethers said, “was for the anatomy, the symmetry and beauty of it all.”

Money raised from the sale of artworks at Thursday’s auction will fund the Taubman Institute’s Emerging Scholars grant, which helps promising young physician-researchers equip their laboratories for research that might not have an immediate payoff.

The grants pay $150,000 over three years, and have so far been allocated to 16 researchers.

Tickets to the gala were $500 and $1,000.

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