Inspiration through a microscope

For several years my art has been inspired by looking at tons of cellular/microscopic imagery primarily online. Although I’m not trained in biology, I’ve tried to pick through the information about the functions and processes connected to the images.
plant cilia

I find that usually sparks the seed of a new work or series. It can be a certain shape, line or pattern in the microscopic images that I fall in love with. Or it can be that my imaginings about that particular process evoke a metaphorical story.

I then make sketches pulling from what’s grown into a fairly large storehouse of bioligical shapes and patterns in my head. A successful sketch, one that leads to a piece of work, usually has an imagined story/metaphor attached to it. That’s what often can serve as a guide as I make each of the myriad decisions about composition, color, line…during the evolution of a piece.

Here’s a link to an amazing collection of plant microcopic images that have been photographed and colored by Jim Haseloff.

3 Responses to “Inspiration through a microscope”

  1. Josie Says:

    You describe your work as “a kind of invented biology” — what struck me upon following the Haseloff link (great images!!) and scanning the first page, is how much of what is visually seen under microscopes is also something of an invention. Without the colors/dyes/florescence added by the technicians, much less can be known or interpreted about the workings of these tiny worlds.

    I also appreciate the insight here about how you hit upon a new “series.” It is interesting to look at your gallery and the names and think about what elements are connecting the ones in series, since each is so unique.

    • karenkamenetzky Says:

      Josie- you make a good point about our limits of really knowing what the world on a cellular level looks like. I think scanning electron microscopes only show that world in black and white. Maybe there’s new technology that has improved on that?
      What makes a series a series to me can be something like a repeated shape or similar overall composition- like in the “Touch” or “Roots of Rhythm”pieces. Or it can be that it seems to continue another part of metaphorical “story” as in the “Life Goes On” pieces.
      I can see how it might seem somewhat enigmatic though!

  2. Josie Says:

    I think Haseloff’s images were of specimens that were stained and then photographed, not a touching up of the pictures. So, it must be possible to view the colors. Maybe there is no natural color variation at that super-microscopic level, or perhaps not variation that is accessible to our light/optics? Interesting! The staining seems to be following a labeling system — i.e. “nile red for oil bodies,” he wrote — so the color becomes a sort of code for understanding how the biological elements are composed.

    So interesting to think of this as it also relates to your work, which also uses color for expression, balance, metaphor, perhaps even code!

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