Archives for category: science art

Almost at the last minute, I added a coat and hat for a curator to the exhibition. The coat had been hanging around waiting for its role. I didn’t see how it was going to accrue enough meaning to be included but it was itself part of my aunt Julia’s collection of clothes so it had meaning for me. Then over last weekend I made the hat from almost everything on the ‘nature table’ under our stairs, acrylic paint and adrenalin.

It’s over the top, dripping with bird and wasp nests found by my daughter, moths bred by Dad, a wild boar’s jaw found on holiday with Mum, beetles and a butterfly. Now shown with the coat, which is undone to reveal part of a double injection specimen and a printed interior it means something.

It reminds of a drawing or print of a flayed arm in a book I have: ‘The Quick and the Dead – Artists and Anatomy’. It’s beautiful. (Super book if you are interested in drawing and science btw.)hat for curatorcoat with double injection specimenjacket printed with staining longshot exhib diagonal towards horses head

owl and burn for wordpress blog
since I last blogged. Picture this: I was working in the underground bunker which houses the University’s collections of organic matter (wet and dry rooms) when my father was admitted to hospital. He was given only a short time to live. We rallied round for a couple of months and then he died, at home. A short while later there was an event celebrating his life, a life filled with art and architecture, music and natural history.

His death came less than a year after my grandmother’s, a wood engraver, designer and gardener.

I haven’t been back to the underground stores. I haven’t been able to face all the dead matter. Now when I consider those collections I think of things people haven’t managed to let go of. The University has its reasons, obviously, for hanging onto them. Multiple reasons probably.

I’m trying to process what’s happened to my dad (and my gran) and my family as a whole.  I drew him as he lay ill in bed. (He agreed to it but that was so unlike him that I now feel I stole something he wouldn’t have wanted to give had he been more ‘himself’.) I seized his shirts when they were offered. The shirts, the drawing, the writing, keeping the notes I made of meetings with the local nurses, touching and re-touching his stuff: it’s all my way of holding on to something that’s gone. I’m not going to pickle it – an idea – but I have been trying to re-create with it, a bit like in the Liverpool World Museum where the stuffed lion and zebra are poised mid-chase by the watering hole. That is a re-arranging of one reality (stuffed dead animals) to create a new one. The new one is false but looks like life. We can relate more easily to it as a result.

The work I’m making now is varied. With Lol at John Moores University, I’ve burned the drawings of my father into heavy papers, combining them with a drawing of a baby owl he would have loved. (Thank you Jay at The Owl Sanctuary, Shropshire.) I cannot bring myself to frame these even, although they would be safer framed. I find them too painful to look at.

Concurrently I’ve been re-making using one grandmother’s buttons and china left by the other. These things will take on new life recorded in photo-intaglio etchings. They will look like archive material because etching has that aesthetic somehow. Since the beginning of this project I have ‘felt’ the gap between the decorative and the ‘other’ collections at the Victoria. In my life as in the lives of my father and grandmother the decorative and the natural world have always been closely linked. I’m hoping these etchings will resonate in the overlap between the two areas of study.

Just back from the stores and still trying to warm through.

Another thought-provoking visit. Spent most of it in the ‘wet’ room (11º c) amongst the specimen jars. Drew, placing the drawings in glass as I went. Another small intervention, a distraction really. The real organisms and animals ‘in vitro’ split into two visually: either they look to be ‘in utero’ (the vertebrates) or they look marine i.e. somehow natural in liquid.

Still struggling to direct my thinking. Here are drawings of an unlabelled marine creature, which took me off towards classification, notation, the need to organise, to stucture, to draw order out of chaos. Also drew cynthia papillosa, which led me to the World Register of Marine Species online. It turns out that this can be almost tangerine coloured when alive. Lack of colour in both wet and dry stores is significant.

The ‘wet’ collection doesn’t get out much. Without strict temperature control evaporation is a threat, changing the strength of the formalin-water mix. Formaldehyde is believed to be carcinogenic and an alternative liquid used in these containers – alcohol – is a fire risk. Thus re-location is hazardous. Am thinking ‘what would happen to the ink drawing if immersed in formalin mix… could I make replicas of this specimen in wax?’ etc..

Cold inside and out today, or at least it feels it. Drew and thought in the windowless stores all morning. Leonie was there, also two biology students. Went back to the human skulls and stains. Made a list of stains to research. Thought this double injection specimen would make a fantastic screen print. May have a go at making it later this week.

Drew from the skulls without producing anything of note. Lots of ideas though: how to create something similar to bone i.e. full of holes, what would I put into the cranal cavity if I were to remodel the skull in tissue nest for my own purposes? Will make a few models and upload.

Created a small intervention in the dental area of the main store room using an x-ray light box from the collection and a drawing of mine. This was something I tried to put together in August but I didn’t have the right light box. The drips are egg white. Will leave this where it is until my next visit – see if there is any response…