Fascinated by the organisms found in the sea and bodies of freshwater, artist Jiyong Lee (previously) sculpts semi-transparent artworks that evoke the various forms of algae and other microscopic creatures. The segmented pieces, which are composed of smooth, matte glass, create both organic and geometric shapes. Part of an ongoing Segmentation Series, the composite works consider the evolution of a single cell, which Lee expands on:
I work with glass that has transparency and translucency, two qualities that serve as perfect metaphors for what is known and unknown about life science. The segmented, geometrical forms of my work represent cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life as well as the starting point of life.
Lee is based in Carbondale, Illinois, where he teaches at Southern Illinois University, and many of the pieces shown here will be part of a group show at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis from September 12 to October 17, 2020. The artist also was chosen as one of 30 artists for the Loewe Foundation’s Craft Prize, which will bring him to Paris for an exhibition in the spring of 2021. Until then, explore more of Lee’s biology-informed sculptures on Artsy.
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Like most romances, penguins’ relationships aren’t black and white. The aquatic birds are known for their scandalous affairs, messy heartbreaks, and frequent kidnappings of each others’ chicks. To keep track of their complicated relationship statuses, caretakers at Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium and Kyoto Aquarium have created a complex network documenting 2020’s romances.
The two flowcharts are replete with color-coded lines and symbols: Red hearts denote couples. Purple lines with question marks signify more complicated relationships with the potential of romance. A blue, broken heart indicates an ended affair. Yellow lines mean friendship, while green marks an enemy. Each penguin’s name is written underneath its photo.
In an interview with CNN Travel, Shoko Okuda, a spokeswoman for the aquariums, said the caretakers have included the dramatic birds’ flirtatious tactics, too, which includes wing flapping and shaking their necks left to right. Heartbroken birds—one female in Kyoto (shown below) ended six relationships last year alone—often refuse to eat their rice as they cope with the loss. The caretakers included have formed strong bonds with the penguins, sometimes even coming between same-species connections.
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Paper artist Rogan Brown (previously) uses an accessible, universally recognized material to convey complex and minuscule biological processes. Two of his most recent sculptural works, Cytokinesis Variations, showcase cell division, also known as mitosis. “At any given moment millions of cells in your body are dividing and multiplying in order to replenish and maintain your skin, hair, intestine and bodily organs, etc. Cytokinesis is the final and most dramatic stage of mitosis when the cell wall ruptures and splits in two to form identical daughter cells. I have tried to freeze the ultimate moment of transformation and becoming,” Brown tells Colossal.
The large-scale sibling sculptures, each reaching 47 inches long, are created using hand- and laser-cut white paper paper carefully arranged in layers to convey the dramatic energy of mitosis. “Paper, my chosen material, embodies the paradoxical qualities that we see in nature: its fragility and durability, its strength and delicacy,” Brown explains in an artist statement. “There is a pleasing poetic symmetry in taking this material that was cut from the forest and by cutting and transforming it once again returning it to its origins.”
Cytokinesis Variations will be on display as part of an exhibition and sale on the history of science, natural history, and technology, at Sotheby’s running December 11-17, 2019. Brown’s work is also part of a new permanent exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, which opened September 5, 2019. The artist tells Colossal that he is currently working on a coral themed piece called Reef Goddess which scales 10 feet in length and is based around a silhouette of the entire human body. Keep up with Brown’s science-inspired artwork on Instagram and Facebook.
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Biochemistry Professor Transforms His Research into Bronze Recreations of Ancient Trilobites and Modern Insects
D. Allan Drummond (previously) is an associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and human genetics at the University of Chicago. A few years ago Drummond began turning his extensive research of fossils and prehistoric sea creatures into detailed computer renderings which he then 3D prints and casts in bronze. Although many of his sculptures are inspired by ancient creatures like the trilobite, which existed for over 270 million years before its extinction 250 years ago, he also creates modern-day insects such as praying mantises and large bug-eyed jumping spiders.
Drummond currently has a solo exhibition titled “Curiosity” at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle through January 6th, 2019. In addition to several large individual sculptures, the show features a grid of wall-mounted trilobites that pay homage to the work of the 19th-century illustrator and naturalist Ernst Haeckel. Visitors are encouraged to remove the bronze pieces to explore the underside in greater detail—a part of the creature which is often eroded in fossils over time. You can see more of Drummond’s metal recreations of animals past and present on Instagram.
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By day, D. Allan Drummond is Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at The University of Chicago, where he runs the Drummond Lab. After hours, his interest in evolution and cellular structure takes a different, tangible form. Drummond constructs exacting replicas of creatures from the deep fossil record, paying specific attention to the detail of their underbellies, which are often obliterated by the passage of time. Drummond shares with Colossal:
So far, as a scientist, I’ve been on a slow journey to the bottom, to the deepest level of detail, from seeking to explain patterns of evolution spanning the tree of life, to probing how cells react to their environment, to tinkering with the pieces and parts of molecules swarming inside those cells. The details go all the way down, remaining absorbing and also consequential, worth knowing about and studying. That sensation of unexpectedly interesting detail is what I try to capture in my sculpture.
Each creature is sculpted digitally by Drummond using scientific references, including specimens from private collections. Next, they are 3D printed in wax, and finally lost-wax cast in bronze and finished by hand. The sculptures are rendered down to the smallest detail, including gills, antennae, legs, and even mitochondria in cell division. Drummond shares his in-progress and completed pieces on Instagram and several works are available for sale on his website as jewelry or decorative artifacts.
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Biologists estimate that 3.2 million species of fungi may exist on Earth, and of that only around 120,000 are known to science which leaves potentially millions organisms of left to discover, photograph, and document before it’s too late. The majority of undescribed species live in the tropics where mycologists Danny Newman and Roo Vandegrift have traveled extensively to document fungi in regions threatened by climate change and development.
In 2014, the pair traveled to Reserva Los Cedros, one of the last unlogged watersheds on the western slope of the Andes, where they took all of the photos seen here. The reserve has since been declared open for mining by the Ecuadorian government and the habitat that spawned these unusual mushrooms is slated for destruction. “The identification and description of rare or endemic species from the reserve will help demonstrate the value of these habitats and the importance of their conservation,” shares Newman about the project.
As part of a January residency at the University of Oregon, Newman is now working to sequence the DNA of 350 fungi samples found at Reserva Los Cedros and is seeking support from the public to help fund the project at cost. You can see more photos from their discoveries in Ecuador on Mushroom Observer. Also, do yourself a favor and check out the caterpillar at 0:50 in the video below.
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Editor's Picks: Science
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.