Friday, May 1, 2020

A Walk with Cajal among his Canopy of Trees


¡Feliz cumpleaños, Cajal!  (1 de mayo de 1852)  Hoy tomemos el tiempo para disfrutar de los placeres simples del sol, el aire fresco y los árboles. Y a todos, espero que tengan buena salud y seguridad durante este tiempo inusual.


Dawn Hunter, Cajal editing a student's thesis, La Residencia de Estudiantes, marker, pen and ink on paper, 11"x 14"

The writing below has been revised and updated to mirror the content of this topic on my website.  www.dawnhunterart.com:

For anyone who is a Cajalian, it is a personal journey. Cajal, this historical and monumental figure in neuroscience, can reach out and expose his humanity through his work, writings, and drawings in a simple, profound, and relatable manner. He accomplishes this by describing his painful childhood experiences, his self-deprecating humor regarding his ego, and the generosity he expressed to his students. When he is the most vulnerable is through his drawings. Despite the scientific intention – his beating heart, personal vulnerability, and passion of mind are communicated through his drawings' line quality. This ideographic expression is why so many of us recognize and perceive his drawings as art, and this quality is why his work continues to be discussed, emulated, and admired.

Cajal's first-person narrative in his biography, Recuerdos de mi Vida, makes one feel as though he is confiding exclusively in them over coffee at a cafe. He is transformed from the storyteller into the best friend of the favorite pupil. Through his written words from the encapsulated past, he springs alive into the present, becoming a privy partner in creative, intellectual, or objective quests. With humility and wisdom, like Siddhartha before him, he inspires the highest ideals of human capability in artistic expression and scientific research..

Some descendants of his disciples and family are fortunate individuals because they know him the best in many ways. Not as an ideal historical figure, but through those who were closest to Cajal. Their family and friends' real-life experiences interacting with him. Including stories that have been passed down through generations plus real "treasures," cherished, personal mementos from Cajal.

It was distressing when I arrived in Madrid at the Instituto Cajal, to conduct my Fulbright research, to learn the Cajal family home in Atocha was being remodeled into condominiums. Cajal had a direct hand in the house's design and final construction, thus the renovation felt like a great loss of historical significance. Seeking comfort, I conceived of a project which entailed retracing Cajal's afternoon walks in Retiro Park, Atocha, and at La Residencia de Estudiantes. On the weekends, with my daughter in tow, we would sit at the entrance of the Cajal home and draw the cityscape from that vantage point. My goal, to find sites and trees at places that were in existence when Cajal was alive and immerse myself. Through viewing the environments that are layered with the past intertwining with present as much as possible I sought to see through his perspective some of his day-to-day routine, thus creating my own momentos of Cajal.

― Dawn Hunter, March 2021



Dawn Hunter, Velazquez Paseo del Prado, pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Monumento a Ramón y Cajal, Retiro, marker, pen and ink on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Sunday Morning Meditation in Atocha, marker, pen and ink on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Anthropology Museum, Atocha, marker, pen and ink on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Retiro Park Evening Walk, pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Retiro Park Evening Walk, II, pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14

Dawn Hunter, View from the Front door of the Cajal Home, Madrid, pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Drawing of the trees across from the Cajal home in Madrid, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Drawing of Retiro park near the Cajal home in Madrid, Spain, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Re-creation of Cajal's school photo badge and a "selfie" he took after returning to Spain from a tour as a military doctor in Cuba.  The plant foliage was drawn from the observation of plants that are at the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14

Dawn Hunter, Drawing of the Observatory across from the Cajal home in Madrid, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14

Dawn Hunter, Paseo del Prado, pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Cajal's hands, microscope, pyramidal neuron, and mini self-portrait from his sketchbook juxtaposed with his retirement statement and design details from his Nobel Prize - the photographic source imagery was originally black and white.  Color has been added and the color of the Nobel Prize design details has been altered, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

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