Trajectory: Escape Velocity

I have started a new project I’m calling Trajectory: Escape Velocity.  It is a story of evolution, beginning at the very beginning (let’s ignore what quantum physics tells us in favor of telling a more linear story for now) and ending with people leaving the planet. I don’t know all the steps in between. I won’t know until I’ve created them.  I post pictures of things in progress, if you are interested in those.  I am going to attempt to post as each phase is completed. So, here is phase 1.

In the beginning, there was darkness:

This is a little one inch black square.

This is a little one inch black square.

And then there was light:

Starburst

Starburst (19X19 inches)

Next up: The Primordial Soup. See a teaser DNA picture on Twitter.

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Women artists who inspire me

For International Women’s Day, I like to talk about some women who inspire me. I am sorry I do not have pictures for this entry. Please click on the links and see what joys await you!

Jen Athanas is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years. She helped me when I started sewing clothes. Any time I had a question, she’s always been available. Her support has been invaluable, so you can see why she’s important in my life, but she also works incredibly hard, has very high standards (something she helped instill in me), and is tenacious.

Athanas set out to get a degree in textiles at Rochester Institute of Technology. They axed her program before she finished, so she left. In the meantime, she moved to the Washington DC metro area and determined to finish her bachelors. She went to Marymount University and got a degree in fashion design. For her senior project, she used upcycled fabrics, something she continues to do today. She has been making beautiful bags for over 10 years and is just branching out into non-functional art.

Athanas does not just sit in her studio and create, she also a vital part of the art scene. She was juried into the Torpedo Factory last year and is now on the board. She teaches classes in the area and also volunteers at Scrap DC. She reminds me that all work and no play makes a dull gal. She finds time for yoga and other social activities too! Visit her at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA or check her out online at her website jenafusion.com

In my last entry, I mentioned friends I’ve made on Twitter. Immy Smith is one of them. She is an artist who has left the lab. Her work is stunning and thought provoking. I love seeing her trials and works in progress. Smith seeks out collaborations with labs and other artists. Her work aims to communicate science. I think she does this brilliantly, both as a fine artist and a cartoonist! Check her out on Twitter (drimmysmith or cartoon_neuron) or find her website and browse immysmith.com

I met Megan McGlynn at SfN14 and was privileged to have a booth next to hers. We shared inspirational images with each other all week. McGlynn went to art school and studied neuroscience at U Penn concurrently with getting an art degree at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She’s interested in architecture and often couches neuroscience in this perspective. She works with ink and paper as well as sculptural elements. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to sit next to a booth with a 4 foot pyramidal neuron that everyone who walked by was drawn to. She also teaches sometimes. I wish I could take a class with her! If you are in the Philadelphia area, see if you can find her work. It’s worth seeing. You can read more about her on meganmcglynn.com.

Last, but not least, I met Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle last summer. They sing together and create amazing, intense crankie shows. Their beautiful harmonies complement the art that scrolls past, no matter if they are hand sewn, lino cut, or even shadow puppets. Their material ranges from somber to hilarious. They also have a radio show, somewhat in the style of Prairie Home Companion, that they organize on a monthly basis. They perform, they teach, they invite people to collaborate. They live their passion and inspire. Check them out at annaandelizabeth.com.

Best of all, even if you can’t see these amazing women in person, you can purchase some of their work.

The Riches of Twitter

Twitter has brought me unimagined riches: new friends (got to meet quite a few at SfN14 last year); little gifts in the mail (lapsang souchang infused goat cajeta, alpaca fibers for felting); great #sciart in my life new mushroom coasters laser engraved by Julie Himes and a felted hat adorned by a jellyfish to warm my noggin); and opportunities to have conversations about science, art, and everything in between.

When the #sciart tweet storm was announced, I felt a bit shy about participating. On Sunday, I tentatively tweeted my first few tweets for the #sciart tweet storm organized by the Symbiartic blog team: Kalliopi Monoyios (@eyeforscience), Katie McKissick (@beatricebiology) and Glendon Mellow (@FlyingTrilobite). I had no idea what riches it would bring.

On Monday morning, I saw a tweet by Stewart Barker of a fungal invasion. It was so beautiful. And my kids had a snow day. I thought, ah ha, I’m going to see if I can capture this in felt.

My attempt did not fully resemble Barker’s infestation, but I was pleased with it. When I reported back, he told me that he had seen other fungal infestations resembling my felt, which really made my day.

Monday night, I got talking with someone about starting a new hashtag idea. That work is still in process, but I’m hoping we can roll it out next week. I love collaborating!

Yesterday morning, I wrote up the previous blog post in an attempt to get my three images done for the day. Five minutes after I posted, Chris Woolston from Nature Magazine called and wanted to know if he could use an image of one of my quilts for an online article about the #sciart tweet storm. I was really confused and didn’t think he could possibly mean one of the one’s I’d just posted, but yes, that was what he was talking about. Talk about serendipity!  (Find the article here, with lovely sciart from three other artists as well!)

I love the #sciart community because of the investigative spirit and willingness to collaborate. I’m invigorated by it. If there is a question to be pursued, that is exciting to me. Ultimately, I think #sciart is about communication. I appreciate being part of the conversation and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of the #sciart hurricane! I hope it takes a long time to die down.

Neuron collection: 3 new neuron quilts

Last fall I made a little purple neuron which caught the eye of Jennifer Wells (aka Jenthulu) on Twitter. After SfN14, she asked me if I would make her a new one as well as another one like Dancing, but in different colors.

Even though the request had been for a purple neuron, I got distracted and made a grey neuron highlighted with green flashes. For me, it is reminiscent of the micrographs with GFP (green flourescent protein).  Then I went and made the purple one, using different fabrics on the back as I had done before. I wanted it to feel fresh and as I said on Twitter last week, I’m not interested in reproducibility of results. I am constantly tweaking.

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Grey neuron quilt about 6X9 inches with metallic green flashes

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Purple neuron, dancing on a black background

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“Electricity” A green and pink neuron interact on a field of blue. Size is approximately 20in wide by 18in tall.

Then I set to work on the pair of interacting neurons. I wanted to try something different, so I used foil for the flashing synapses instead of angelina and where the connection was farthest, I added beads in the hopes of conveying the idea of little bits of information crossing (this is more along the lines of artificial intelligence, really, but I’m a fan of scifi too).

Initially I wasn’t sure how the different colors would play out.  I thought the red-pink background I’d made before with black neurons would be the only way to showcase them properly, but with a little time, I was able to figure out another solution. It was good to stretch outside my preconceived notions!