Introducing the NEW Art + Science Series!

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Greetings biocreativity readers! As many of you know, the biocreativity blog started as a way for me to explore the interrelationship between the arts and biology. I heard from so many artists looking for a place to exhibit their biology-inspired artwork, that the blog eventually inspired me to found a brick-and-mortar art gallery to exhibit science-inspired art. Well, Art.Science.Gallery. has started the new year in a new gallery space at Canopy in east Austin, and I couldn’t be more excited about our exhibitions for 2014! I invite you to come and visit whenever you’re in Austin: 916 Springdale Rd, Building 2, #102, Austin, TX 78702. You can also follow the gallery on Facebook and Twitter (@artscigallery). I’m so happy to report that Art.Science.Gallery. exhibited the work of nearly 200 science-inspired artists in 2013 (check out our past exhibitions here), and we’ve got an exciting schedule of nine science-inspired exhibitions lined up for 2014 (including two open call exhibitions)!

So what has become of the biocreativity blog? Since I’m a biologist by training, the biocreativity blog has thus far featured biology-inspired art. Now that Art.Science.Gallery. is up and running, I’ll be featuring art inspired by all of the natural sciences. I’m happy to announce that the ECO Art + Science Series is being reborn to be more inclusive of other scientific disciplines, as the Art + Science Series. I’ll be featuring interviews with artists that we’re exhibiting at Art.Science.Gallery.! And, as always, I enjoy learning of new artists who are merging art and the natural sciences, so keep me informed in the comments and stay tuned for our first Art + Science Series feature on Katey Berry Furgason’s Portraits of the Microscopic paintings and Collaborations with Insects, Weather, Time, Wood + Root sculptures coming up very soon!

Join Our Evolution at Art.Science.Gallery. !

Dear biocreativity readers,

I just wanted to let you know that biocreativity’s partner gallery – Art.Science.Gallery. in Austin, TX – has just launched an exciting crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.com to help us evolve from being a pop-up gallery to a brick-and-mortar gallery! As you probably know, Art.Science.Gallery. is the direct descendent of the biocreativity blog. I decided to open an art gallery that exclusively features science-related art after meeting many of our talented Eco Art + Science Series artists and seeing the amazing work they create! There are a whole lot of science artists out there who need more places to show their work, and thus Art.Science.Gallery. was born! Art is also a great way to get people of all backgrounds interested in the sciences, and we hope our gallery will help increase science literacy by exhibiting science art and by hosting workshops for scientists in science communication and fun art-sci classes for everyone!

Making art-science trading cards at Art.Science.Gallery.'s Join Our Evolution Kick-Off Party + Art-Sci Jam at Strange Brew Lounge Side in Austin, TX.

Making art-science trading cards at Art.Science.Gallery.’s Join Our Evolution Kick-Off Party + Art-Sci Jam at Strange Brew Lounge Side in Austin, TX.

In the past year we’ve hosted more than a half dozen exhibitions and events around Texas in collaboration with universities, museums, scientific organizations, non-profits and even churches,  and we’re on to the next step in our evolution: our own brick-and-mortar space that will allow us to expand our programs.

I invite you all to Join Our Evolution and help our gallery evolve into a community space that promotes art-science fusion of all kinds! A contribution at any level will get your name incorporated into a unique work of science-art that will be on permanent display in our gallery space (+ your name on our website). Other thank-you packages start at only $10! Even if you can’t contribute financially, please help us get the word out by sharing our campaign with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, or by making a comment on our campaign site: artsciencegallery.com/evolve! We promise to get back to creating great biocreative posts when we’re settled into our new space – and thank you so much for your readership and support of this blog for the past couple of years! You’re fantastic!

Join Our Evolution at Art.Science.Gallery.! from h. gillespie on Vimeo.

Evolutionary Biology in Video Games?

Magna Arbor Vitae Deku © 2011 by Jude Buffum. http://www.judebuffum.com

I came across this print today which features a very biocreative rendition of the evolutionary biology of the creatures of the Legend of Zelda video game. Created for a show last fall at iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles, this poster by artist Jude Buffum shows 200 of the game’s legendary species complete with binomial Latin names and their common ancestors. Click here to see details of this print. Here is Jude’s statement from the show:

I created Magna Arbor Vitae Deku (traslated “The Great Deku Tree of Life”) a sprawling exploration of the evolutionary biology of the 200 most important species from the Legend of Zelda video game series. Complete with binomial Latin names (Zora Bellator and Zora Fluvialis share a common ancestor with the more peaceful species Zora Sapien, for example), the brances of the Deku tree trace the evolution of each species over millions of years. Forks in the branches indicate an extinct common ancestor of the species that follow.

As I’ve discussed before on the biocreativity blog (the ecology of Frogger), I think popular video games have the potential to have a role in science communication. Buffum’s print is a really creative way to think about evolutionary relationships, even if it is with fictional species. However, can anyone spot the reason Buffum should have collaborated more closely with a biologist on this print?

Buffum actually uses quite a bit of interesting biological imagery in his infographics and illustrations. I think we may have found the ultimate designer capable of creating engaging science video games! Indeed, he’s already collaborated with The Franklin Institute on their new exhibit about electricity, and this infographic created for O.C. Tanner could be the basis for a fun new game on gene expression!

Appreciatology infographic © 2008 by Jude Buffum. http://www.judebuffum.com

Prints of Buffum’s work are available from http://judebuffum.wordpress.com/shop

Biocreativity on the Road: Bacteria Art at SXSW

For anyone in Austin for SXSW, you really shouldn’t miss a very biocreative event happening tonight, from 5-9pm at The White Horse at 500 Comal.

Join the folks of bacterially.org as they exhibit some of their synthetic biology design work and help us get to know our microbiomes. They will also be offering you the chance to swab from your own living ecosystem and contribute to their digital art project! Meet and mingle with some amazing synthetic biologists and designers. You’ll be able to see your anonymous contribution to this work on bacterially.org within a couple of weeks. It’s a great chance to learn about your biology and have fun doing it! Some of the folks from Synthetic Aesthetics will likely be there.

 “We are fascinated by how microbes work together with one another and with the human body to produce chemicals and odors, and we explore these ecosystems as artists and as scientists, dissecting and analyzing as well as synthesizing and re-creating.” – Bacterially.org

Also on display at the event — E. chromi – a collaboration between designers and scientists in the new field of synthetic biology. In 2009, seven Cambridge University undergraduates spent the summer genetically engineering bacteria to secrete a variety of coloured pigments, visible to the naked eye. They designed standardised sequences of DNA, known as BioBricks, and inserted them into E. coli bacteria.

Each BioBrick part contains genes selected from existing organisms spanning the living kingdoms, enabling the bacteria to produce a colour: red, yellow, green, blue, brown or violet. By combining these with other BioBricks, bacteria could be programmed to do useful things, such as indicate whether drinking water is safe by turning red if they sense a toxin. E. chromi won the Grand Prize at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM).

Read more at Joe Hanson’s blog www.itsokaytobesmart.com. Many of the Austin Science Communicators will be there (including the folks from Austin’s Science in the Pub) and we invite you to join us for this and future events via our facebook page.

2012 Darwin Day Portrait Project

Darwin Day Portrait Project. Paper collage and acrylic on wood panel. © 2012 Hayley Gillespie

I am happy to report that I had a wonderful time at Darwin Day 2012 last week at the Texas Memorial Museum - the first public event for the biocreativity blog! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Darwin Day is an international celebration of the birthday of naturalist and evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, who was born on February 12, 1809.

I hosted a booth at the Darwin Day celebration to make a big portrait (3 x 6 feet) of the great naturalist using images of biodiversity cut out of National Geographic magazines that were so generously donated by Half Price Books. This was a really fun process, and the kids and the adults seemed to love it, too! But, from selecting the base image for the portrait, to putting the finishing varnish and installing hanging hardware, pulling off the Darwin Day Portrait Project was quite a job, and I couldn’t have done it without my husband, Cole!

The first step was choosing a portrait of Darwin from which to base the line drawing for the collage. I had a lot of fun with this, because Darwin commissioned many portraits throughout this lifetime, which was a luxury many scientists of the time couldn’t afford. Many of these portraits are now in the public domain and are shown on the Portraits of Charles Darwin Wikipedia page. I chose to go with a portrait of an older, very recognizable Darwin, from this 1871 photograph by Oscar Gustave Rejlander:

1871 Portrait of Charles Darwin by Oscar Gutave Rejlander

“Darwin’s visage, particularly his iconic beard, continues to be culturally significant and widely recognizable into the 21st century. According to historian Janet Browne, Darwin’s capacity to commission photographs of himself—and their widespread reproduction as carte de visite and cabinet card photographs—helped to cement the lasting connection between Darwin and the theory of evolution in popular thought (largely to the exclusion of the many others who also contributed to the development of evolutionary theory).”  -Portraits of Charles Darwin, Wikipedia

Interestingly,  Rejlander’s collaboration with Charles Darwin on his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, earned the victorian art photographer an important place in the history of behavioral and psychiatric science. The book is an excellent example of art-science collaboration in the 19th century. It defined Darwin’s contribution to the field of psychology and put Rejlander on the radar of other prominent scientists of the time. This book is also a pioneering influence in the work of modern psychologists studying human emotions through body language and microexpressions, including prominent psychologist Paul Ekman (a fictional version of Ekman was recently portrayed by Tim Roth in the Fox series Lie to Me; Ekman was also a guest on WNYC’s RadioLab episode on catching liars).

Photographs illustrating emotions of grief from Charles Darwin's work "The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals," published by J. Murray, London, 1872. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. This is likely the work of Oscar Gustave Rejlander.

There were many other interesting portraits I could have chosen, such as this strapping young lad just returned from his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle from this late 1830′s watercolor by George Richmond.

1830's watercolor portrait of a young Charles Darwin by George Richmond.

Or, this photograph by Baker Street photographers Joseph John Elliott and Clarence Edmund Fry, who produced many portraits of Darwin throughout his life including this one, which is one of the last photographs taken of the evolutionary biologist before his death on April 19, 1882.

November 1881 photograph of Charles Darwin by Elliot & Fry, London.

Though, as reported by author Richard Millner in the 1995 Scientific American article Charles Darwin: The Last Portraitthis relatively recently discovered Woodburytype by victorian portrait artist Herbert Rose Barraud is now considered by some scholars to be the last photo taken of Darwin. Millner also reports that in his later years, Darwin expressed that portrait-sitting, “is what I hate doing & wastes a whole day owing to my weak health”. And, with regards to a historic opportunity to sit for a portrait with Alfred Russell Wallace in 1869 (the man who independently proposed a theory of natural selection, which prompted Darwin to publish his own theory of evolution by natural selection), “to sit with another person would cause still more trouble & delay.”

1881 Woodburytype image of Charles Darwin by Herbert Rose Barraud.

And, of course, then there are the caricatures, many of which were prompted by strong societal reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which are duly reviewed by the American Philosophical Society (of which Darwin was a member) here. These range from depictions of Darwin as an ape, such as A Venerable Ourang-Outang : A Contribution to Unnatural History which appeared in The Hornet in March 1871, to slightly more flattering fare, including Men of the Day No. 33, Natural Selection that appeared in Vanity Fair magazine in September 1871. Darwin, however, seemed to take these in stride, “I keep all those things,” he told a friend in 1872.  “Have you seen me in the Hornet?”

"A Venerable Orang-outang", a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine, in March 1871

Caricature of Charles Darwin, “Men of the Day No. 33., Natural Selection”, which appeared in Vanity Fair, September 1871.

Another interesting art-science connection comes directly from Charles Darwin’s personal life. His wife Emma Wedgwood Darwin was the granddaughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the world-famous Wedgwood and Sons pottery firm in 1759 (which is still in operation today as Wedgwood Waterford Royal Doulton). Here’s one of Wedgwood’s iconic Jasperware cameos, in “Wedgwood blue”, modeled in the likeness of Charles Darwin.

A Wedgwood pottery Jasperware cameo of Charles Darwin, based on an 1881 portrait.

Of all of these intriguing portraits, I needed something for the Darwin Day Portrait Project that could generate simple lines for a color-by-number template. Rejlander’s photograph  provided just that, and so I used it to generate this simple outline that I projected onto wood panel to create the collaged portrait.

Line Drawing of Charles Darwin for the Darwin Day Portrait Project © 2011 by Hayley Gillespie

Then came the fun part: putting on the collage! The kids had a great time at the Darwin Day celebration at the Texas Memorial Museum pasting images of the great diversity of life onto Mr. Darwin’s image. Indeed, it was a four-hour non-stop bombardment of excited kiddos (and even a few adults) coming at me to make their mark on the portrait. I also had a fun conversation with Austin American-Statesman reporter Farzad Mashood, who later filed this report from Darwin Day 2012, and left his mark on the Darwin portrait. While I scarcely had time to breathe, my amazing husband Cole helped cut out images in the colors we needed, took photos and helped direct things as I pasted the day away! While the kids seemed to have a lot of fun looking for their favorite animals, nearly all the parents reminisced by flipping through the piles of National Geographic. “I loved this magazine when I was a kid!”, many of them exclaimed as they watched their kids fill in the Darwin. The joy of appreciating the natural world, just as Darwin did for 73 years, and for its own sake, was apparent in their expressions as I invited to take a copy home with them. This is why I’m a biologist. Helping people enjoy science is one of the most rewarding things that I do.

We were lucky enough to capture a time-lapse of the Darwin Day Portrait Project (though the museum was a bit dark for good photography, and because the kids needed to be able to reach the wood panel there are a lot of derrières in the ground-level photographs!). It’s taken a little more than a week to put the finishing touches on – filling in gaps in the collage, painting on the outlines and putting on a protective varnish. Very soon he’ll be hanging in the Texas Memorial Museum, and I’ll update this post with his location.

Many heartfelt thanks to all of the participants, to Christina Cid, Director of Education at the Texas Natural Science Center and Texas Memorial Museum and her crew of volunteers, and to Half Price Books Austin (South Lamar and North Lamar locations) for their generous donation of National Geographic and Science magazines for this project. And, as I mentioned above, my husband Cole was instrumental in the development of this idea, and its successful execution. Thank you, and Happy 203rd Birthday Charles Darwin!

Signatures of the many participants who made their mark at the Darwin Day Portrait Project.