ART MEETS SCIENCE: A COLLABORATION BETWEEN ARTISTS AND RESEARCHERS

Art meets science in an upcoming show titled Creative Reactions, on May 25th, 2019, at the Plant Recreation Centre in Ottawa. It's a show of art created by artists who were paired up with academic researchers and based on themes such as the human body, galaxies, society, etc. Creative Reactions explores the relationships between art and science, the use of creativity, art as a method for learning, as a means for visual communication. And I'm excited to be one of the eight selected artists.

I was partnered with botanist Paul Sokoloff, senior research assistant with the Museum of Nature, who invited me for a tour in February of the museum's Herbarium in Gatineau which, even though I've lived in Ottawa all my life, I did not know existed.

I was wowed! A building comparable to the size of the new Amazon warehouse, Paul - whose specialty is Arctic botany - treated me to a tour: no end of ferns, mosses, lichens and other plants, plant uses, some history, some Botany 101 and even a peak through a microscope. So many botanical species, old and new, scads of which I had never heard of, but all documented and innumerable added into a searchable database accessible by the public.

One of many photos I took of the samples at the Herbarium

A close-up of the information one of the Herbarium's samples

My visit lasted about 45 minutes and, with my creative well full of ideas to consider for an art piece for this show, my challenge was to narrow down the possibilities, bearing in mind the goals of the program. 

Possible subjects included climate change and its effect on plant habitats, medicinal uses, plants of the Arctic, expeditions, and so much more. But I found I kept coming back to the beautiful and enchanting lichens, a fascinating world I could journey to and learn more about, and one that presented me with so many artistic possibilities to create a piece of art. And lichens, I learned, are actually a combination of fungi and algae. 

As fibre art is all about texture, I knew this would be a good fit. And while I had played in the past with various fibre art techniques and materials covering a variety of subjects, I had never explored the subject of lichens. I knew lots of experimenting would be needed to identify the best options to fabricate the three-dimensional textures of these organisms and the surfaces on which they grow.

As we narrowed the search to select 5 or so lichens, Paul included several lichen experts on the emails to provide their input and thoughts, as we looked at lichen colours, textures, properties, a focus on the Arctic but also other regions of Canada, unusual names, beauty, and projects related to lichens.

The 5 lichens were selected throughout March and April, some I have now completed and some are still in progress for my fibre art piece. All 5 will be mounted onto 1 canvas, and a background designed to provide more information about each. My next couple of posts leading up to the Creative Reactions show on May 25 will cover the 5 lichens, why each was selected, the materials I chose and the techniques. 

In the meantime, here are some links to some of Paul's postings on his own botanical journey and explorations with the Museum of Nature. Some fascinating - and educational - reading:

Adventures in botany, on Earth and Mars
Northern Plants in the Capital: Mer Bleue Bog
Botanist Paul Sokoloff on his journey to the Arctic
The “Martian” Flora: Extreme Life in Extreme Environments

Comments

  1. What an interesting project. I look forward to your future blog posts on the 5 lichens.

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