ART MEETS SCIENCE: A COLLABORATION BETWEEN ARTISTS AND RESEARCHERS
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
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