file under research

a detour from the goings on in the studio to write about a visit to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Another artist in the residency program, Mari Lacure (, suggested this visit so we took the red line out to Cambridge, braved the Sunday crowds at Harvard square and arrived at the museum with none of my usual “getting lost” mishaps. The draw for Mari was the glass flower display, which is a slight misnomer because while there were flowers on view, the collection was an examination of many parts of the plants including leaves, fruits and recreations of near invisible plant structures important for their reproduction. The models were expertly created by father and son glass artisens Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka and most of the specimens commissioned by Harvard have survived the 125 years since their making.

The difficult thing to express is that this trip was unplanned  (at least until a few days ago) yet so beneficial to the work that I am doing at the residency. Looking at the models made by the Blashkas, struck a couple of notes for me. The first is that I know the structures that fascinate me so in this botanical world can be seen at many scales of magnification. The general shape of a leaf or flower visible to the eye or the forms contained within a younger structure that is much smaller and shorter lived, are all possible subject matter for my photography. Some technical hurdles lay ahead which will require me to leave my favorite imaging method of choice, the flat bed scanner, and work with photomicroscopy  techniques to realize these smaller scales. The other “note” struck was a reminder of another reason for doing what I do, the slight threat embedded within these fantastical forms. They need to create a bit of fear in me because of their strangeness; a reminder of how I would sneak a peak out of my bedroom window at night at the risk of catching sight of some monster or alien being.

Last but not least some art history. My wife is a painter and she has shared with me her knowledge of the history of pigments. I had a small agenda going through the rock and mineral room. A whole blog entry could be written on magnatite and meteorites but it is important to go through that candy store of geology with a purpose. The purpose being to locate and photograph an example of Lapus Lazuli, the blue pigment of the ancients. So here it is, for Bridgette, one of three specimens in their collection but by far the one with the most intense blue.


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