This 2021 work stems from a collaboration with a scientist colleague, Dr. Paula C. Furey, who studies algae and aquatic ecology. These artworks focus on anatomical observations of a microscopic group of algae called diatoms. I was first introduced to these singled-celled aquatic plants in a high school biology class, and went on to study them in a university course with the late Dr. Robert Sheath. After completing my Bachelor of Science degree, he helped me find my first job as a biologist, in 2000, studying freshwater algae in British Columbia. It was there that I met Paula, and continued to learn about these fascinating organisms over the course of a year.
Since then, I had a diverse career and education as an ecologist and artist. Paula and I reconnected in 2020, to embark on an art-science collaboration involving phycology (the study of algae). So far our collaborations have involved things like regular zoom meetings where we share ideas and updates on our respective research, Paula helping me refine my algae-sampling and microscope skills, sending images and documents back and forth for feedback and inspiration, and using microscopic imagery from her work and my own field explorations in my studio practice.
Diatoms are covered in intricately patterned glass cell walls, called frustules. They’re responsible for producing a huge proportion of Earth’s oxygen. They’re incredibly diverse – there are 1000s of different species. As an artist, I wasn’t interested in making images that were exact replicas of these forms, but in using inspiration from these incredible organisms to create abstracted artworks exploring forms and functions of the natural world.
This work is being exhibited in 2021 at Spudnik Press Cooperative, Chicago; and Wild Skies Gallery, Edmonton.