Sunday, June 30, 2013

Textile Maps

Map art is one of my favorite things. I'm always gathering examples. I define it broadly to include any art map with maps, or of maps, artistic cartography, and the art of what is mappable. Today, I'm sharing a subset of what I've found: the maps made with textiles (especially map quilts and embroidery).

Haptic Lab, Great Lakes quilt

Haptic Lab, Paris quilt
Haptic Lab makea variety of wonderful quilt maps and kits so you can make your own. I think of the Great Lakes as home (though as a Canadian, I think they are missing the boat by only annotating the American side).

They've also made some lovely city map quilts and kits, including the ones for Paris and Boston, shown.

Former urban planner, Kathryn Clark made a series of 'foreclosure quilts' depicting bird's eye views of neighbourhoods with the foreclosed properties marked. She writes, "It was important to me to present the whole story in a way that would captivate people’s attention and make a memorable statement. Making map quilts seemed an ironic solution. Quilts act as a functional memory, an historical record of difficult times.  It is during times of hardship that people have traditionally made quilts, often resorting to scraps of cloth when so poor they could not afford to waste a single thread of fabric."

Kathryn Clark, Detroit Foreclosure Quilt, 22" x 44" Cheesecloth, linen, cotton and quilting thread.
Kathryn Clark, Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt, 2011. 25" x 60" Cotton, linen, recycled denim and embroidery thread. 

Kahryn Clark, Chicago Foreclosure Quilt, 2013. 31" x 42" Linen, cotton and embroidery thread.

Leah Evans uses appliqué, reverse appliqué, piecing, natural and synthetic dyeing, needle-felting, hand printing, and a variety of embroidery stitches to make her quilts, based on aerial photography, maps, and satellite imagery, though they may not be consciously based on specific places. The results are organic and beautiful.

Leah Evans, Estuary

Leah Evans, Development

Leah Evans, Isthmus Nocturn

Leah Evans, Tundra

See also Ian Hundley and his fabric map quilts.

Ian Hundley and his fabric map quilts

As described previously, Steele and Tomczak created Street of Heaven, a stitched, embroidered map of Toronto and specifically, Yonge STreet for STITCHES.

Steele and Tomczak, Street of Heaven 

Other amazing examples I've found of embroidered maps include:



Nicola Searle, Memory map of a route in my hometown, St. Albans.

Heidi Weiss
Flood Map (October 19-23, 2009), cotton thread on linen. 7" x 11"

Embroidered Buenos Aires map for travel guide cover. By Rita Smirna.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fibre Art Specimens

Sometimes the artifacts of science are beautiful in and of themselves. This is of course true of most biological specimens, as lifeforms themselves are beautiful. Thus you do see them recreated in various media. Today I bring you textile art specimens. Be sure to also see previous magpie & whiskeyjack posts Naturalia & Mirabilia on the art of Lyndie Dourthe, Barnacles which includes crocheted marine creatures like the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, Felt & Food Geology about the photos of Eszter Burghardt, and Doily Science on Lisa Solomon's anatomical and chemical doilies.

Laura Splan's microbial doilies "explores the 'domestication' of microbial and biomedical imagery. Many recent events, epidemics, and commercial products have brought this imagery into our living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms," by employing this old-fashioned, domestic medium.

all by Laura Splan, 2004
freestanding computerized machine embroidered lace mounted on velvet
16.75H x 16.75W inches each (framed dimensions)
(via she walks softly)

Her 2002 'Vigilant' show also featured hand latch-hooked yarn on stretched latch-hook canvas images of petri dishes of various microbes.

Laura Splan, Vigilant, 2002, hand latch-hooked yarn on stretched latch-hook canvas, 120H x 204W inches (installation dimensions variable)

I've mentioned Australian artist Helle Jorgensen previously (for her crocheted Barnacles) but her plastic crochet sea creatures are worth exploring again.

Helle Jorgensen, 'Diploria'

Helle Jorgensen, 'Medusa'

Helle Jorgensen, 'The Retail Reef'

Laura Katherine McMillan's fibre art Petri dishes are quite lovely.

Laura Katherine McMillan, Cell series

Jessica Polka has made some wonderful fibre art specimens, from sea creatures to mushrooms (and she sells crochet patterns through her Etsy shop, which she describes as a wunderkammer, much to my delight).

Jessica Polka, chiton anatomy

Jessica Polka, mollusk anatomy

Jessica Polka, scaphopod anatomy

(you should also check out her laser-cut Turing patterns and her blog in general!)

Aubrey Longley-Cook's embroidered animals include their skeletons. See more on his blog spool spectrum.

Aubrey Longley-Cook

Amongst other work, Andrea V. Uravitch has made small insects and bugs from embroidered and sewn fabric and wire.

Andrea V. Uravitch

Andrea V. Uravitch

Hiné Mizushima makes wonderful and whimsical needle felted sculptures, including a variety of biological specimen.

Hiné Mizushima, Giant Daphnia brooches

Hiné Mizushima

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Astrophysical Meme: Jocelyn Bell Burnell's Pulsar, Little Green Men, Joy Division, and Beautiful Data

In November, 1967, Jocelyn Bell (Burnell) was just a graduate student when she discovered the first radio pulsar (or pulsating star), a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation (light in the radio frequency band) can only be observed when the star is point towards us; so, like the light from a distant lighthouse, it appears to pulse at a precise frequency. She had been working with her supervisor Antony Hewish and others to construct a radio telescope to study quasars (quasi-stellar objects which emit radio waves). She noted some "scruff" on her chart-recorder, and then that the pulses were incredibly regular, occurring every 1.337 seconds. Hewish was initially scornful and insisted the regular pulses must be noise from a human made source. He first dubbed this object, emitting with such regularity 'LGM 1' for "Little Green Men 1", a playful joke about their uncertainty about what could emit radiation so regularly - obviously it could only be a communication from extraterrestrials hahaha! Only after she found other such sources, in different places with different frequencies, were her colleagues convinced and this lead to the development of the pulsar model. It is now known PSR B1919+21.

The 1968 paper announcing this discovery in Nature has five authors, lead by Hewish, followed by Jocelyn Bell. In 1974, Hewish won the Nobel Prize for this discovery, along with fellow radioastronomer Marlin Ryle). Jocelyn Bell was not included as it was assumed that the "senior man" was responsible for the work. This was controversial and has been condemned by many leading astronomers like Fred Hoyle )(who with Thomas Gold was first able to explain the signals as due to a rapidly rotating neutron star). Jocelyn Bell Burnell herself has stated she was not upset. Bell Burnell has a great career and won many honours after her impressive start, but her exclusion from the Nobel win, based on her own research strikes me and many others as one of the more blatant and egregious examples of gender bias in the selection of Nobel prize recipients.

Not only the discovery, but the presentation of the data is impressive and elegant. The diagram above (from the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy) shows superimposed images of successive pulses. Stripped down to their essential information like sparklines (chart lines without annotation or axes, but drawn of course to a common scale) so their regularity really stands out, and they can be easily compared and contrasted. If you are used to looking at time series, you'll know that since they can be easily superimposed and the pulses line up, that the frequency is quite regular. The diagram is downright eloquent, and would warm Edward Tufte's heart. It appeared even earlier in the January 1971 edition of Scientific American article “The Nature of Pulsars” by Jeramiah P. Ostriker (shown above on pale blue) and 1974 graphic design book on data visualisation ‘Graphis Diagrams’(via Gia's Blog).

From there, the image began a sort of life of its own. The British rock band Joy Division included the image from the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy in a folder of reference material for their 1979 album Unknown Pleasures submitted to Peter Saville, who designed the album cover- iconic in white on black, it's the pulsar data graphically on a square field (at left). It of course appeared as art, without explanation of its source. The beauty of the image itself, as well as the devotion of fans of the enigmatic album, lead to it propagating as a meme to this day. Peter Saville himself gives a great explanation of the life of this diagram in this video.

Data Visualization Reinterpreted by VISUALIZED from VISUALIZED on Vimeo.

Consider how the image has propagated, from tattoos
via Gia's Blog and tattoo by dodie

to sculpture
[unkn0wn pleaSures 1919] by Marvin Bratke, Lasercut Sculpture 40x40cm, wood/acrylic glass

to food
Brock Davis

through fashion (both consciously of its original source, and more tongue-in-check critique of our contemporary cult of images disconnected from their source - though ironically, I'm pretty sure the tee shirt was designed by someone who thought kids today should know Unknown Pleasures, rather than radioastronomy).

PULSAR 1919 SKIRT by lovelysally

Graphic artist Adam J. Kurtz has created this humorous t-shirt via laughing squid

We've arrived at something interesting to look at on tumblr, without reference to Joy Division or pulsars, an enigmatic but captivating image with an unknown source... an unknown pleasure if you will.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Scientific Caricatures of the 19th Century

This is a 1882 cartoon of geologist/paleontology/theologian Wiliam Buckland sticking his head into a hyena den, drawn by geologist/paleontologist/clergyman William Conybeare, (via Edible Geography). (I was introduced to both of these characters by a good novel by Joan Thomas called Curiosity, based on the life of Mary Anning). It's surprisingly easy to find 19th century caricatures of scientists; I don't know if this is a function of the medium being more popular, or whether thinkers and scientists were so much more prominent that an educated public could be expected to both recognize them and appreciate the humour. Here we have a few choice selections.

Michael Faraday, FRS (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867), the great physicist and chemist, meets Father Thames from Punch (21 July 1855). Faraday's many interests included what we would now call environmental science, and his 1855 letter to the Times on the foul state of the River Thames inspired his caricature.

“The great south sea caterpillar, transform’d into a Bath butterfly” (1795) by James Gillray is a caricature of English naturalist and botanist Joseph Banks (who famously sailed with Captain Cook, via Public Domain Review).

This 1863 lithograph shows Félix Nadar (from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division) - pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (6 April 1820 – 23 March 1910), a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist, and balloonist. I'm including him amongst the scientists for his pioneering work in the development (no pun intended) of photography, and because like Conybeare, he was both producing new science and caricatures. That some scientists and innovators themselves drew caricatures no doubt explains why they are also common subjexts. Though, one publication, Cartoon Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Men of the Day (1873) with drawings by Frederick Watty is a source of a great many (via Public Domain Review) including:

Charles Darwin (by Frederick Watty)


Sir Richard Owen, FRS KCB (20 July 1804 – 18 December 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist (by Frederick Watty) who coined the word Dinosauria and opposed Darwin's theory of natural selection.


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