For artist Rogan Brown, the process of making his cut-paper sculptures is as important as the finished product. Each artwork is built from painstakingly cut and assembled pieces of paper – an arduous, time-consuming task. Says Brown, “The finished artifact is really only the ghostly fossilized vestige of this slow, long process of realization. I have chosen paper as a medium because it captures perfectly that mixture of delicacy and durability that for me characterizes the natural world.”
I would add that by working only in white, Brown amplifies the impact of his incredibly complex works, putting the focus squarely on what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful.”
Brown says he is inspired by natural shapes and patterns “from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from individual cells to large scale geological formations”. While his art, and the process of study that precedes each piece, pay tribute to scientist-artists such as Ernst Haeckel, Brown does not seek to replicate nature. He rather describes his pieces as explorations: “Everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, estranged and in some way transformed.”
You can see more of Brown’s work on his website and buy originals and prints here.
Kendall Buster was educated as a microbiologist and then became a sculptor. Her scientific training is manifest in her work: huge sculptures, often made of fabric over metal armatures, that refer directly or obliquely to the cells, vessels and biological processes of living creatures. I was drawn to this 2004 piece, Parabiosis IV, simply because of its intriguing beauty, but I had no idea what it meant. I discovered that parabiosis is a technique dating from the 19th century in which two living animals are joined together surgically and develop a single, shared circulatory system” (source). In recent years, researchers have used the technique in mice and found that giving old mice “young blood” through parabiosis may enhance neurogenesis (brain cell growth) and reverse age-related degeneration of the heart muscles. So obviously, this is an exciting field of research – but it’s also deeply creepy, involving stitched-together “frankenmice”, which are quite unsettling to look at. So let’s thank Kendall Buster for presenting this thought-provoking concept, rich in history as well as promise for the future, in such an attractive (non-bloody, non-furry) way.
Like many painters, Franziska Schenk is inspired by what Darwin called the “endless forms most beautiful” of the natural world, and the dynamic processes of evolution, predation and camouflage. As she delved deeper into her work, she became particularly interested in iridescence, the property that allows some surfaces to appear differently colored depending on the angle or light in which they are viewed. Generations of painters have developed techniques to suggest the effect of iridescence – Schenk decided to apply a little science. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Shimmer and Shift”
The Dada movement of the early 20th century was a reaction against the conventions of artistic beauty and meaning. Dada’s practitioners worked with images and materials which were not considered traditionally “appropriate” for art. This painting, The Gramineous Bicycle (c. 1921) by Max Ernst is a perfect example. Continue reading “The Art of Science: The Gramineous Bicycle”