The links between art and science are obvious to me and to you too, I am sure. The difficulty in making this case to others who may not share our interests is providing examples of how art and science work together. Pointing to illustrations in a field guide or a textbook is easy to do, however if we do this too often, I feel we risk making the impression that science and art intersect only in academic texts. Searching for examples outside of academia requires travel to venues such as museums and art shows and, while definitely not a bad thing, time and resources limit how much traveling we can do.
Fortunately for us, Maura Flannery wrote Biology & Art: An Intricate Relationship, a wonderful article in which she features 22 artists and how they blend biology and art in their work. You can postpone your museum visits for a little while longer. Thanks to Maura, you only need to travel as far as your file cabinet for examples to help illustrate the fact that biology and art influence each other on many levels.
The artists featured in Flannery (2012) work with pencil, pen and ink, glass, clay, stainless steel, and even dung. Some keep nature journals, press plants, make prints with fish, create molecules, and use insects as art. You’ll even find examples of controversial bio-art in her article.
You may recognize the name of one of the artists Flannery writes about. Illustrator Jenny Keller made Flannery’s list because of the chapter she wrote about the value of sketching in Michael R. Canfield’s Field Notes on Science and Nature. Keller is a scientific illustrator and instructor in the scientific illustration certificate program at California State University, Monterey Bay. Keller’s sketchbooks are packed with information and are oh-so inspiring. Actually, the word inspiring doesn’t cut it. I am going to borrow the word illustrator Dorothia Rohner used this past summer at the conference of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators — “masterful”.
In keeping with our shared interest in plants, I will mention one more artist Flannery writes about in her article. Artist James Walsh discovered that many of the weeds growing in New York are native to the Arctic (Flannery, 2012). To bring attention to these plants, he collected them, studied them, pressed them and created an exhibition about his findings. A summary of the 2010 exhibition is still viewable online.
Flannery’s article is filled with fantastic examples and I recommend it as a reference to anyone whose interests are firmly planted in biology and art. Her article can be purchased online for $14 or obtained by visiting your local college library.
Flannery, Maura C. 2012. Biology & art: An intricate relationship. 74(3): 194-197. The American Biology Teacher
More Examples of Biology & Art
To Maura’s well-researched list, I would like to add the following resources for your consideration:
- Symbiartic: The Science of Art and the Art of Science
- Member Gallery of the American Society of Botanical Artists
- The Ask the Artist list located in the column to the right of this article. This list features the wonderful guests who have shared their work and who have taught us so much. Guests such as Gary Hoyle. Gary will be taking your questions through October 31, 2012. Have a question about museum exhibits, dioramas or the realistic plant models seen in museums? Ask Gary!
Also, don’t miss Maura’s article about imagery in scientific communication.
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