15 May 2013


When I was an undergrad in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, one of the more creative classes I took was a two-semester course in scientific illustration.  The first semester was devoted to manual illustration ~ freehand sketching, painting with acrylics and oils, and drawing using draftsman's tools.  The second semester concentrated on photography, using film cameras of various sizes, and developing our own prints in the darkroom.  Bear in mind that this was 30 years ago, so the methods and materials we had at our disposal did not include computers or digital photography.  Nevertheless, I'm still proud of the two portfolios I produced that year.

Recently a pictorial article by Megan Gambino in Smithsonian online captured my aesthetic and technical attention.  She writes about the work of architect and scientific illustrator Macoto Murayama, who achieves a rare confluence of art and science in his "inorganic flora" project.  The artist buys or collects specimens, then "carefully dissects each flower, removing its petals, anther, stigma and ovaries with a scalpel.  He studies the separate parts of the flower under a magnifying glass, and then sketches and photographs them.

"Using 3D computer graphics software, the artist then creates models of the full blossom as well as of the stigma, sepals, and other parts of the bloom.  He cleans up his composition in Photoshop and adds measurements and annotations in Illustrator, so that in the end, he has created nothing short of a botanical blueprint."  (see image above, click to enlarge)

This is not art in the traditional Monet. O'Keefe, or Picasso sense.  Murayama's work is an intentional blend of art and science.  A representative of the gallery which represents the artist describes it thus ~ "The transparency of this work refers not only to the lucid petals of a flower, but also to the ambitious, romantic and utopian struggle to see and present the world as a transparent object ~ completely seen, entirely grasped."

You can see more examples of Murayama's art here.

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