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