Friday, September 30, 2016

Cumulative Effect: Cajal Inventory Drawings

     My work has profoundly influenced my artistic practice and aesthetic interests as a medical illustrator for the new edition of Human Neuroanatomy, published by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing in 2017, by Dr. James R. Augustine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine. While creating illustrations for this textbook, I researched the history of brain anatomy illustration and was particularly struck and inspired by Ramón y Cajal's drawings because they possess artistic merit and a particular type of observation.


     I am creating a series of drawings and paintings titled Aesthetic Instincts: the Intersection of Art and Science in Santiago Ramón y Cajal's life. This is a comprehensive biographical creative project that, through visual art, examines and represents the life of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934). Ramón y Cajal was a Spanish scientist and the first person to demonstrate that the nervous system was made up of individual units (neurons) independent of one another but linked together at points of functional contact called synapses​. Ramón y Cajal illustrated his studies' results with elegant drawings of neurons that he proposed work independently or collectively and that each individual unit can participate simultaneously in individual or multiple neuron functions. Ramón y Cajal was a 1906 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine awarded jointly to another neuroscientist, Camillo Golgi, "in recognition of their work on the nervous system structure," however, their research was mutually exclusive and embraced opposing theses. Santiago Ramón y Cajal is considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience. 







          Featured in this post are works from my Cajal Inventory. The forty-five drawings are 11" x 14" each and created through a combination of the following materials: graphite, ink, pen, marker, and acrylic. The drawings are biographical of Ramón y Cajal and my creative process within this project, i.e. some works are my notes from Dr. Augustine's Fundamentals of Neuroscience course that evolved into completed drawings. Ramón y Cajal's biographical portraits are comprised of Ramón y Cajal, his wife Silveria, and their children. 


     I view my new drawings and paintings as educational tools that address art, history, and neuroscience. After I read his autobiography, Recollections of My Life, a part of me that felt like some critical aspects of Ramón y Cajal (his humor and how he imagined himself, particularly in his youth), was absent the mainstream discourse patterns about him. My artwork highlights his personality traits and his private value system, essential to his unique scientific insight that led to his great discovery: that the nervous system is comprised of individual, independent biological units, i.e., neurons. The images here are a fusion of surreal and hyper-real portraits, domestic scenes, and recreations of Ramón y Cajal scientific drawings. I have reconstructed his scientific drawings by studying his actual work on display at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD. I have also re-created some of his lost childhood drawings based on the description in his biography.


     When I recreate his scientific drawings, I draw the whole situation of each drawing. Shadows cast from the drawings are included as are the boundaries created by the mats. I do this because his drawings were constructed with unconventional formats. Not only does this approach make spending long hours researching and drawing his works more creatively interesting, but more importantly, it serves to emphasize the content and context of his research. 






               I have been fascinated with the combination of complements in my visual art. I have applied this to the form (color selection and composition) and the content (opposing personalities) in my Cajal Inventory.  In color theory, it is said that complements incite maximum vividness or annihilate each other.


     Ramón y Cajal's marriage to Silveria Fañanás García is an example of a highly functional complementary pairing. Ramón y Cajal, in choosing a mate, selected a woman whose character attributes were what he perceived to be a "perfect" complement to his. In doing so, he believed that their union would be a great accomplishment or matrimonial disaster. He said publicly that he would not be Ramón y Cajal if it were not for his wife, and he credits her much with making his work and the depth of his research possible. She incited his maximum vividness.


     This work celebrates Ramón y Cajal and his birthday (May Day). I am symbolically mirroring Ramón y Cajal's application of complementary contrast in his marital union. Therefore I elected to use (as defined by Johannes Itten) a harmonious hexad comprised of three complementary pairs of hue from the color wheel: blue-violet and yellow-orange, red and green, and yellow-green and red-violet. Integrated within the pageantry of images are Ramón y Cajal's neural drawings, May Day flowers, and Ramón y Cajal's portraits; his wife, Silveria; and their children. 



     A selection of seven works from an earlier phase of this series is currently on view alongside Ramón y Cajal's scientific drawings at the NIH's John Porter Neuroscience Research Center. Learn more about that exhibition here: National Institute of Health Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibition and symposium.

           




























































Friday, July 29, 2016

Draw for a reason, draw for the love of drawing!

Below are posted the drawings from my visit during June to the National Institute of Health.  Rain or shine, for two days I was was gleefully and completely immersed in the activity of drawing.

Dawn Hunter, study of Ramón y Cajal's Calyx of Held scientific drawing, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study of Ramón y Cajal's Growth Cone scientific drawing #2, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study that juxtaposes Ramón y Cajal's Calyx of Held scientific drawing with the landscape, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study of Ramón y Cajal's Growth Cone scientific drawing, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study of Ramón y Cajal's Astrocytes drawing with Don Quixote, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, National of Institute of Health:  Atrium of Building number 10, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, National of Institute of Health:  view from the John Porter Neuroscience Center during the rain, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"


Intellectual work is an act of creation.  It is as if the mental image that is studied over a period of time were to sprout appendages like an ameba - outgrowths that extend in all directions while avoiding one obstacle after another - before interdigitating with related ideas.

- Santiago Ramón y Cajal


Monday, June 13, 2016

Feature in the news @UofSC and new drawings




I was really excited and flattered when Dan Cook took a keen interest in my drawings included in the The Arte Corporis: Exploring the Anatomical Body exhibition. Featured in the show were fourteen of my drawings I have made during the last year through the direct study of Santiago Ramón y Cajal's scientific drawings.  Each drawing was made on site at the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD.  My studies of Cajal's work at the NIH are constructed through the use of pens and marker - thus no erasing.  

Images from the exhibition were posted on this blog in March @ The Arte Corpis.  

 Dawn Hunter, Study of Cajal's Pyramidal cell scientific drawing, Berkeley Art Museum, graphite on paper, 11" x 14"

I had the opportunity to draw another set of Cajal's drawings at the Berkeley Art Museum earlier this month. This time, because of museum restrictions, I drew his work in graphite. As always, when I study his drawings, I draw the whole situation of each drawing.  Shadows cast from the drawings are included as are the boundaries created by the matts.  I do this because his drawings were constructed with unconventional formats.  Not only does this approach make spending long hours researching and drawing his works more creatively interesting but more importantly, it serves to emphasize the content and context of his research.   A sample of the works I drew are featured in the above work and below:

Dawn Hunter, Study of Cajal's Olfactory cortex scientific drawing, Berkeley Art Museum, 11" x 14"


Dawn Hunter, Study of Cajal's Microglia in the grey, scientific drawing, Berkeley Art Museum, graphite on paper, 11" x14"


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sketchbook Biography

I have had an opportunity to draw just about everywhere, everyday.  Below is a sampling of drawings from travels and at home during the spring and summer of 2016.

Dawn Hunter, Utah, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Berkeley Marina, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Riverbanks Zoo, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Columbiana, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Babette Cafe, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Sea Lions, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, NIH Building #10 Atrium, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, NIH, view from John Porter, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"


Dawn Hunter, Berkeley Marina, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Lake Murray, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Kitchen Window featuring the Boov, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Bedroom Window with Sleeping Cat, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14" 

Dawn Hunter, Aquarium, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Botanical Gardens, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Gazebo, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Summer Highlights, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Botanical Gardens, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Backyard, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Casa Latina, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Berkeley Marina, marker and pen on paper

Dawn Hunter, Backyard_2, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Botanical Gardens, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Aquarium, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"


"The dawn laughs out on orient hills 
And dances with the diamond rills; 
The ambrosial wind but faintly stirs 
The silken, beaded gossamers; 
In the wide valleys, lone and fair, 
Lyrics are piped from limpid air, 
And, far above, the pine trees free 
Voice ancient lore of sky and sea. 
Come, let us fill our hearts straightway 
With hope and courage of the day." 

-excerpt from A Summer Day by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Importance of Collaboration Among Faculty

The most rewarding aspect of teaching at the University of South Carolina is the people and the potential for unexpected growth in one's research.  I was very fortunate to have met and connected with Dr. James R. Augustine of the University of South Carolina Medical School.  He is part of the Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience department.  We have collaborated as colleagues on his new textbook, and to that end, I provided illustrations for his textbook.   Our collaboration opened a whole new avenue for my research, and I am currently producing creative work about the life of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

Comprised of several works I have created so far in my new series of art about Cajal, below is a calendar that I produced as a thank you for the many people who have assisted me in my project from the University of South Carolina, the Instituto Cajal and the National Institute of Health.  I made a limited edition of 15 calendars, and since several people in the field of neuroscience and art have asked about the calendar, I am sharing it here on this blog.
  















In order to facilitate an easier read, here is the text that appears on the "with gratitude" page:

I became aware of Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s research and his drawings three years ago while working on neuroscience illustrations for the new edition of Human Neuroanatomy by Dr. James R. Augustine.  I was immediately captivated, inspired and intrigued with Cajal’s artistic drawings, his scientific research and his personality (as represented in the autobiography Recollections of My Life.)  Cajal was such a fascinating and multi-talented individual.  After I had read his autobiography, there was a part of me that felt like some key aspects of Cajal, (his humor, and how he imagined himself - particularly during his childhood), were often absent from the mainstream discussions of him and his work.  One day I was lamenting this, and then it occurred to me that as an artist, I could create works that expressed biographical and metaphorical interpretations of his life and his internal world.

I was delighted to learn this past spring that an exhibition of Cajal’s drawings was on display at the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD.  Upon viewing the exhibition, I was completely amazed by his drawings.  Cajal’s sensitivity and line quality rival the greatest of artists. 

To understand his drawings and how they are put together, I have been making regular trips to the NIH so that I can draw the actual works.  This process has taken my understanding of his drawings to an entirely new level.  I shared insights gained from this process during the symposium held at the NIH honoring Cajal this past October and currently I am compiling those observations into an article.

I am tremendously grateful to Dr. Juan de Carlos, Curator of Cajal’s drawings at the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, for organizing and loaning Cajal’s drawings to the NIH for the exhibition.  I am truly indebted and thankful that the display of Cajal’s drawings will continue into the future.  I am very thankful to Dr. Jeffery Diamond, Senior Investigator, NINDS for his dedication and for organizing the exhibition, and also for inviting me to display my creative works about Cajal in the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center.  I am also thankful to Dr. Diamond for our numerous conversations about Cajal and also for inviting me to present at the first annual symposium held at the NIH honoring Santiago Ramon y Cajal.  It was a great honor to meet so many renowned scientists, especially those who came from the Instituto Cajal to participate, which include:  Dr. Juan de Carlos, Dr. Fernando de Castro, Dr. Laura López Mascaraque, and José Luis Trejo.  It was a delight to learn more about Cajal from all of them, especially Dr. de Carlos who took the time to view Cajal’s work with me and answer questions.

As an expression of gratitude and celebration of the New Year, I have compiled a selection of my studies of Cajal’s drawings created from viewing Cajal’s work on exhibition at the NIH and some of my creative biographical/metaphorical works about Cajal into a commemorative 2016 calendar of which I have made only fifteen copies.

I would be remised not to mention my appreciation to those at the University of South Carolina who have extended a great deal of support to my current research.  I am especially thankful to the chair of the School of Visual Art and Design, Dr. Peter Chametzky, for his encouragement, enthusiasm and support of my research trips to the NIH.  I am overwhelmed by Dr. Hanno zur Loye, Associate Dean of Research and Dr. Roger Sawyer, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for arranging additional research funding to my project for the spring 2016 semester.  I am especially thankful to USC President, Dr. Harris Pastides for providing the faculty of the University of South Carolina with access to the University plane.  The University plane has granted me a unique opportunity to study and view Cajal’s work on an ongoing basis.  This regular access has broadened my understanding of Cajal and increased the quality of my research.  I would like to thank the USC pilots, Ken Keverline and Roy Roe for their consistent excellence in service and professionalism.  Lastly, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. James R. Augustine for all of his encouragement, support and understanding over the years, and for being a truly wonderful and inspiring colleague.