Sunday, July 27, 2014

You can see some of my work this month at
The Cool School, Los Angeles. Feel free to stop by.

July 26 – August 31
Opening reception July 26, 7-10pm


Friday, July 25, 2014

Life Magnified: A glimpse of what lies just beneath one’s skin.

In the mid to late 1800’s, there was a revolution in medicine due to Louis Pastuer’s germ theory of disease. The scientific community recognized that organisms that weren’t visible to the human eye could infect and decimate entire populations, including man. During this time, Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species (1859) was also published. His theory of evolution pulled the rug out from underneath the traditional idea that nature had directed goals and species were immutable.  Man’s world was not so orderly or well understood anymore.
The fantastic French artist, Odilon Redon, was deeply influenced by these scientific discoveries.  He had a deep interest in the relationship of science to society, which included the powerlessness of man before these invisible forces of nature.  

A worm-like form emerges fro the void.

Phantom, Charcoal, 1885, Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner KG, Bremin/Berlin

Ciliated faces float about.

 In the Primeval Slime, Charcoal, 1880 Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner KG, Bremin/Berlin

 Almost a hundred and fifty years later, our understanding of germs has greatly advanced.  Not only are there more microscopy techniques out there for biomedical researchers to use, but they have unearthed a plethora of forms, systems and structures that were previously unknown.  These recent discoveries and other microscopic forms are highlighted in an exhibition, Life Magnified, up at Dulles International Airport this summer.    The 40+ photographs let us get lost in a labyrinth of forms that create intricate and psychedelic little worlds. 

Neurons in the cerebellum, a region of the brain: Thomas Deerinck, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California, San Diego

The mouthparts of a Lone Star tick: Igor Siwanowicz, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA.

Hair cells: the sound-sensing cells in the ear

Henning Horn, Brian Burke and Colin Stewart, Institute of Medical Biology, Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, Singapore

Weblike sheath covering developing egg chambers in a giant grasshopper: Kevin Edwards, Johny Shajahan and Doug Whitman, Illinois State University
The biomedical researchers who created these images hope to bring an awareness to their important work in the sciences.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Free art workshops!

I'll be hosting the Printmaking workshops this Friday and Saturday at The Cool School, Los Angeles.  Come join! Learn about Monotype and Relief printmaking methods.  More information can be found at  The Cool School Website

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Convergence of Art and Science: Amazing Anatomy objects

Throughout history, anatomical studies have played a large part in the search for knowledge about the body's internal mechanisms and life giving forces. These studies have led to many advancements of thought but many are incredible art objects as well.

The Italian painter, Leonardo da Vinci (
1452- 1519), was one of the great innovators in this search to understand the physical working of man.  No easy task, considering dissecting corpses for study was outlawed by the Roman Catholic Church during his lifetime. He did this by covertly observing cadavers for his anatomical drawings. Upon his death in 1519 he had accumulated about 600 drawings with notes. However, due to the illegal nature of his undertaking, they were never published in his lifetime. The power of these sketches still reach us today because of their beauty. He give us a glimpse of what lies just underneath the skin-- a microcosm of blood vessels, organs and bones .

One of Leonardo’s more well-known anatomical drawings-- Dissection of the Principal Organs of a Woman, c.1510, pen, ink and wash over black chalk, 18.5 x 13in. Here he depicts the "irrigation" system of the human body. Source: Windsor Castle, Royal Library 12281r, c 1991 Her Majesty the Queen, Royal Collection Trust

As the end of the 17th century neared, the reigns of the church were loosened and an anatomy school in Bologna was able to access the corpses that were needed to make detailed studies. From this school, Gaetano Zumbo was the first to make anatomical models from colored wax giving the models life like details. Soon an entire ceroplastic workshop formed around his methods.

 Today in Florence, a collection of these anatomical wax figures still exists in good condition. They are on display at the oldest public scientific museum-- La Specola (The Observatory, 1775). Here, the wax models were created in order to teach anatomy without having to dissect or observe a cadaver. The detail of and accuracy of the wax figurines is astounding. In a time with little refrigeration, approximately 200 corpses or parts of corpses were used to make a single wax figurine. Most of the masterworks at La Specola were made by Gaetano Zumbo (1656-1701) and Clemente Susini (1796-1814). The Italian modelers of the 18th century mastered subtle gesture and placement, keeping a little life in their figures. A feeling that creates a sensation as if they have just exhaled their last breath.

This wax model of a pregnant woman can be taken apart revealing internal organs and systems.  Source: Encyclopaedia Anatomica, pg2,  c1999 Benedikt Tachen Verlag GmbH, photos by Saulo Bambi

Source: Encyclopaedia Anatomica, pg108-115,  c1999 Benedikt Tachen Verlag GmbH, photos by Saulo Bambi
This model shows the superficial veins and lymphatic vessels.

Here in L.A. county, I recently went to the Huntington Library’s exhibition Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World and was reminded of the wax collection in Italy. This exhibition in Dibner Hall consists of 4 sections, one representing Medicine. Here, one can see a book, Obstetric Tables (Philadelphia, 1847) by George Spratt. This book was intended to serve as a reference for the study and practice of midwifery. Much like the Italian wax models, new layers of anatomical structure can be revealed, in this case, by lifting flaps.

Likewise, a similar book by Andreas Vesalius, the Epitome (Swizerland, 1543) is on view. Within this book, illustrations by Jan Stephan van Calcar accompany Vesalius’s anatomical treatise, De humani corporis fabrica, making it an excellent teaching tool for students at a time when access to cadavers was rare. The Huntington Library has created a plastic duplication next to these two books so one can page thru the layers just like the medical students did back in the day.

View of book Obstetric Tables (Philadelphia, 1847) by George Spratt with interactive replica.
Detail of hand-colored lithograph. Illustration depicts twin fetuses. George Spratt, Obstetric Tables (Philadelphia, 1847).

Andreas Vesalius, the Epitome (Swizerland, 1543), illustrations by Jan Stephan van Calcar

 These works tell a story of what lies unseen beneath the surface.  Which somehow is a weirdly beautiful and  a macabre reminder of our own mortality.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Experimenting with cyanotypes

Anna Atkins, Chordaria flagelliformis (NY Public Library)

Scientific illustration in its early days was hand drawn and painted.  Today photography and digital imaging have greatly changed this field. So where did this revolution begin?  This photographic investigation was kick started by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins in 1843.  Her work British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions recorded specimens of algae in the British Isles, capturing a beautiful ephemerality in the process.  Her editions are great examples of the synthesis of art and science.
Anna Atkins, Delesseria sanguinea (NY Public Library)

Luckily for us, we can all easily make cyanotypes in our backyards.  Yeah!  Here is a link to B & H Photo where one can buy pre-coated paper or a basic kit to coat your own papers for around $20.  For the truly adventurous who want to make everything from scratch, here is an insanely informative site by Mike Ware on alternative photographic processes. One can purchase bulk chemicals for these scratch recipes from Photographers Formulary or a chemical supplier.

I made my own little creatures using the cyanotype process. They are a combination of Katydid wings and bird skeletons....       
Bidid Hybrid I, Cyanotype
Bidid Hybrid II, Cyanotype

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nighttime spinning

I literally ran into this web last night made by a garden spider (one member of a large orb-weaver family.)  This particular spider generally spins a new web everyday, consuming the old web before starting a new one. When it starts this venture, the spider floats a silk line on the wind from its position until it reaches another surface on which to anchor it.  Young spiders have the ability to do the opposite.  They can fly into the wind off their anchor thread.
These little tid- bits seem epic--- The youthful spider taking a dramatic initial leap to create a beautifully ordered snare.  It becomes part of its own labyrinth, eating and digesting a history in order to make a future over and over again.

orb-weaver spider web

Friday, June 28, 2013

Certain Densities

Rachael Pease, Rapture, UV-direct imaging monoprint on frosted mylar, 19 x 14 inches
My artwork is on view at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery, University of Missouri from June 3 - August 19, 2013. The exhibition also features paintings by Matthew Ballou, Barry Gealt, David Gracie, Melanie Johnson, Ken Kewley, Rachael McHan, Emil Robinson, and Megan Shaffer. 

Visit Painters Table to view catalogue essay of Certain Densities by Matthew Ballou and to see more artworks.