Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ocean Acoustics: Zooplankton- Our Planets Largest Mass Migration

At dawn and dusk every day, our planets' largest migration occurs in the top 200 meters of the ocean. Zooplankton, who have hidden from predators in the gloomy, lower layers of the water column, migrate to the surface of the ocean at dusk to feed under cover of darkness. At dawn, they scoot back down to the gloomy safety deeper in the water column. Active Acoustics uses sound to "see" into the water column to track these diverse and beautiful creatures.  
Active acoustics uses sound to "see" underwater.  A transducer mounted on the research vessel sends a ping of sound into the water column and when that sound wave bumps into some sort of obstacle (in this case millions of tiny zooplankton), a returning sound wave contains information about these life forms.

I've embroidered the grand migration with embroidery stitches, beading and hundreds of (intentionally) sloppy french knots. I LOVED embroidering this daily procession of survival. 

My process involves shifting between learning science and developing sketches. When I have enough sketches, I experiment with how best to express the science I've learned. 

The process of learning the science and integrating the design of the art takes time and care. It's important for me to represent science accurately and help viewers appreciate the value of scientific research.

Early design plan for Active and Passive Acoustics.

This is a well written and beautifully illustrated article about zooplankton in the New York Times Science section.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ocean Acoustics Project : The Art and Science of Beginnings

In June I had a terrific opportunity to be a part of a science voyage: I was invited to join scientists   aboard the Research Vessel Endeavor.  Working at the edge of the Outer Continental Shelf in the Atlantic Ocean, we were at sea for three weeks working round the clock to collect data that helps researchers understand what is happening in the ocean ecosystem.  One of the best ways to study the ocean ecosystem is by using ocean acoustics. (More on this in later posts!)

My job as an artist was to learn the basics of this fascinating branch of science and create art that helps others understand and appreciate the ocean ecosystem.  I'm dusting off this blog in order to share my art/science process with you. This is the first installment sharing my process of this (as of yet) unnamed project expressing ocean acoustics.

A year before the project started, I began  preliminary research on ocean acoustics and filled up one large sketchbook. This early sketchbook is a necessary, awkward phase in the project and out of all these mostly discarded ideas, I begin to refine my ideas. I often look over these first sketchbooks for my project at a later date and mine them for ideas in future projects.

Once on board the ship, I had access to scientists, scientific papers, and the ships crew and dug into the concepts of active and passive acoustics as well as the tools necessary for collecting data. No matter how long I've been collaborating with scientists, this is an uncomfortable phase. Every branch of science has its own specialized vocabulary, acronyms and concepts. At the same time I was  learning the science, I was adjusting to life at sea, meeting a boat load of new people and training to use equipment we were deploying to collect data. It was a challenging few weeks! 

Test sample

Dupoini silk colors

At the beginning of every project, I'm plunging into the great unknown. I'm struggling to learn the science, gathering lots of images for inspiration and creating both paper and textile sketches. The beginning phase is all about both staying  open to new learning and ideas and beginning to refine some general directions like color and textile selection. Out of this rich experience, I began to distill my ideas for the project and select the colors and fabrics I wanted to use to express the science. 

Once I lock on to general direction for the project, I use a large sheet of graph paper to plot out my ideas for the art work. Here I'm planning out two pieces: one for active acoustics and one for passive acoustics.

In future posts, I'll detail what I was learning and my artistic inspiration for the project. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Boundary Layer: Fungi, Lichens, Mosses

Woodland Fungi of Swallow Cliff Woods, IL

Boundary Layer

The top few inches of the earth’s crust is home to some of the most fascinating and necessary micro habitats on the planet. Before early land plants first escaped the oceans, the way would have been prepared by crustose lichens whose enzymes have the ability to break down the hard, rocky surfaces. Lichens attract and retain moisture and dust particles that in turn create the perfect conditions for micro plants like mosses and liverworts to survive desiccating winds and manage water resources.  Mosses also provide a home for the water-loving hyphae of fungi and a microscopic zoo of creatures. These small organisms form the necessary foundation for a succession of larger vascular plants to thrive.

Medieval Reliquaries from the Art Institute of Chicago inspired the creation of this work. These bejeweled receptacles housed the venerated bones of saints and provided an apt metaphor for valuing and celebrating this community of diminutive plants and organisms.
Marine Lichens of Coastal Brittany

Many thanks to the scientists and organizations that helped me learn about these micro habitats and the organisms that inhabit them.

      Office of the Provost, Columbia College Chicago for a faculty grant      
Dr. Patrick Leacock, School of The Art Institute, Illinois Mycological Association
Paul Mayer, Field Museum
Wyatt Gaswick, Field Museum
Lorinda Sues, Illinois Mycological Association for their permission to use photographs for reference
Dr. Erin A. Tripp, University of Colorado, author of “Field Guide to the Lichens of White Rocks Open Space
Dr. Matt Nelsen, Field Museum
Dr. Matt Von Konrat, Field Museum
Michael Kuo, author of “Mushrooms of the Midwest”
Burns Bog at the Delta Nature Reserve, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Boundary Layer Project: Micro habitats of Lichens, Mosses and Fungi

 Process shots from the development of the Alpine Community piece. I hand dyed the red velvet to look mottled and more natural. I've used three shades of pearl beads, DMC floss and metallic thread.

Here, I'm working out the Marine Lichen community piece with help and inspiration from Lichens Marins group working off the coast of Brittany. 

Bogs are amazing habitats filled with diversity in both plant and animal species. They help retain water in dry landscapes. Bogs take millennia  to establish and only a few short years to destroy. Burns Bog in Vancouver Canada  was kind enough to help me learn more about these endangered habitats.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Contaminated Drinking Water in Rural Areas

Image result for glass of water

Small drinking water utilities do not have to abide by the same safety regulations as large drinking water plants and as a result, rural water often remains contaminated. Here is the USA Today with details.  Here is a report by the National Institute for Health saying the same thing. Access to uncontaminated drinking water has been one of the most significant public health initiatives in human history, along with treated waste water.  How can we have such different water quality standards for rural vs urban drinking water?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Textile Sketches: Sheer Neutrals

For my small textile sketches, I create self imposed limitations. This series of sketches was inspired by Leonardo di Vinci's sketchbook.  The sketch is of explosive canon balls so I wanted to use materials in complete opposition to this. The above sketch is bead work on transparent organza. I had to plan the embroidery carefully as the back side shows through to the front side.

This one uses silk fibers, bamboo rods and beads.

I made my own springs by winding wire over a pencil.

And here,I'm using mulberry paper and beads.

Water Sketch

My next project is related to water again and I'm contacting major players so stay tuned for more.

In addition to making textile sketches, I'm learning to make video sketches. Stitching videos together is similar to stitching textiles. Both require and investment of time and patience. So far, my gear is pretty low tech. I'm using my cell phone to capture sound and video.