Sunday, September 29, 2013

paper botanicals

Mary Delany, Crinum Zeylanicum: Asphodil Lilly,
a paper collage, 1778 (via The British Museum)

The lovely and precise paper collage, or as she called them 'mosaicks' depicting various botanical illustrations by Mary Delany were recently brought to people's attention by Molly Peacock's book The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work At 72. She wished her work to ressemble dried flowers, and was so successful that some could be mistaken for actual specimen. Peacock describes a woman who in fact invented an entirely new artistic (or scientific illustration) medium, very late in life. Describing her method in a letter to her niece, dated October 4th, 1772, Delany wrote: “I have invented a new way of imitating flowers”.

Mary Delany, Magnolia Grandiflora (Polyandria Polygynia),
the grand Magnolia. 1776
Delany used hand-tinted tissue paper to create 1700 of these paper cuts, working until the age of 88, when her eyesight failed. She worked with plant specimen, and it is believed she dissected them to better observe their detailed anatomy; her works carefully reproduce petals, stamens, calyx, leaves, veins, stalk and other parts of the plant in hundreds of tiny layered pieces of paper, generally against a black background. She lived in a time where there was a revolution in botanical knowledge, a great passion for gardening, and no photography. The intersection of botany and art played an important role in contemporary descriptive science, and Mrs. Delany became a major botanical artist. (via Things that quicken the heart).

Mary Delany, Pancratium Maritinum (Hexandria Monogynia),
Sea Daffodil. 1778
Mary Delany, Vicia Cracca (Diadelphia Decandria),
Tufted vetch

Mary Delany, Iris Susiana, Chalcedonian. 1781
Anandamayi Arnold is a contemporary San Francisco-based artist who makes paper 'surprise balls', a desceptively simple medium: she wraps trinkets and ephemera in layer upon layer of crepe paper, to build up gorgeous, three-dimensional botanical objects. She calls them 'three dimensional trompe l'oeil'. Aya Brackett has photographed Arnold's work in a way which clearly alludes to Mary Delany's work, against a dark background, showing these objects to be more than paper and toys, but a sort of continuation of the paper botanical illustration tradtion, tracing all the way back to the late 18th century and Delany's pioneering work. Further, she's playing with the ideas of the ephemeral and permanance, since these objects are at least nominally built so that someone could unravel them to find the toys inside.

Anandamayi Arnold, Paper Passion Fruit (photograph by Aya Brackett)
Anandamayi Arnold, Paper Pomegranate (photograph by Aya Brackett)
Anandamayi Arnold, (photograph by Aya Brackett)
Anandamayi Arnold, Kumkuat branch, 2012 (photograph by Aya Brackett)

Anandamayi Arnold, paper botanicals photograph by Aya Brackett
Anandamayi Arnold, paper botanicals photograph by Aya Brackett

Thursday, September 12, 2013

more magpie&whiskeyjack

Mark Twain participating in an experiment
in Tesla's laboratory. 
Century Magazine, April 1895. Source:

The magpie and the whiskeyjack are two members of the crow family, who have a reputation for gathering sparkly goodies (the magpie) and being a trickster (the whiskeyjack). This blog is a record of things I've found which intrigue me and things I find beautiful. Most of the posts are tagged art about science and focus on the fertile intersection between them. You can find all the posts about art about science using tags, but I've also added some new categories to help you find what you seek.

image via Brainpickings


On the the sci&lit page you'll find all the magpie&whiskeyjack posts about books about science or the intersection of science and literature. I've also included minouette book reviews of books with an underlying scientific theme; these include everything from popularization of science, history of science, to novels inspired by science, scientists and that fertile art/science intersection. I am (usually) an avid reader and have made it a habit to write reviews on various blogs over several years now, so I thought I may as well consolidate the dozens of reviews related in some way to science. Some reviews are concise, some long and opinionated.


The wunderkammer section falls naturally out of gathering all these wonderous art about science items. I have been gathering large collections of these items for a long time, and am always adding more. The wunderkammer is a place to find items you can add to your own collections.


I've also added a couple of pages to make me a little less anonymous and to make my various sites a little more interconnected. You can find my personal blog at minouette (see the minouette blog tab or button) and my shop and other places you can find things from secret minouette places on the minouette shop tab or button above.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Elements Personified

I stumbled upon this wonderful series of illustrations of the elements personified and excited to see they are now available as flash cards on Etsy, by San Francisco illustrator Kaycie D.  She describes the project as 'Experiments in Character Design'. I would think this would make not only a lovely periodic table, but a really great way for students to familiarize themselves with the 'character' of different elements. Check out the first eight elements below.


Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji similarly created a book called Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified which illustrates each of the 118 elements, based on chemical properties, when it was discovered, and more (via BrainPickings).  



Not always personified, but always illustrated with great creativity are all the prints in the  Periodic Table Printmaking Project. You can find many of these available in my favorite Etsy science items including the ones below.

Tungsten (or Wolfram) by VizArt

Calcium - 20 by pygletwhispers

Medelevium by WingedLion

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

I seem to have fallen out of the habit of regularly reviewing books on my blog. I used to be more disciplined about it, and there is a series of reviews on the minouette blog (and here), including the one below for one of my favorite books of the last several years. I've also mentioned The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet on magpie&whiskeyjack, comparing the whimsical maps and scientific illustration of everything incorporated into the work of artist Simon Evans with those of the more strictly empirical modern-day Humboltian cartography protegy Spivet. If you, like me, are inspired by the fertile intersection of art and science, this is a novel for you. You should go read it right away, because as I was very pleased to read this morning, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director of Amelie, or Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain in French) has adapted the novel for a movie to be released in France (filmed in English, with French subtitles) in October.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

Reading this novel I thought, yes, this is what I want to do all the time. Why can't I just get paid to read books like this? I would be happy doing this indefinitely. Of course, are there books like this one? That is a harder question to answer. Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet (best. name. ever.) is a gifted prodigy in cartography at 12 years old. He lives on a ranch near Divide, Montana, with his mother, stalled entomologist, Dr. Clair, his teenage sister, Gracie, who would love to escape their small town and peculiar family, and strong-silent cowboy father T.E. Spivet. His brother Layton, has died, and we slowly learn more. T.S. keeps different coloured notebooks for maps of people doing things: zoological, geological, and topographical maps; and insect anatomy (should Dr. Clair ever call on his help), respectively. T.S. learns he has won the prestigious Baird Award from the Smithsonian, for his incredible mapping and scientific illustration work, and his adventure begins, as he decides to accept in person, but being 12, he sees his best means of transport as to hop on a freight train and hobo east. In this beautiful, whimsically illustrated book, T.S. maps everything from the Continental divide, to beetle subspecies, to cowboy moves, to facial expressions, to geology, to how McDonald's "penetrates my permeable barrier of aesthetic longing", to concentration of litter in Chicago, to his family history, to a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and what this might have meant for his family. This book is beautiful, in terms of the sensitivity and originality of the story (Wormholes of the Midwest! the hobo hotline?), the love of knowledge expressed, down to the layout of the text and images on the page. Maybe we will be lucky enough to be recruited into the Megatherium club. The manner in which this child's mind breaks up the world is a reminder of why science is wonderful and the joy of unfettered thinking. The story is also interwoven with that of T.S.' ancestors, including his great-grandmother the early geologist. We get both 'when science was young' and 'the young scientist'.

Maybe I'll go reread it myself now.  (cross-posted to minouette)


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