Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Highlights Review: Brooklyn, Cajal, Las Vegas, Simulacra, and New Websites - oh my!

Dawn Hunter, nine square reflection of 2021 featuring my portraits of Cajal and recreations of his scientific illustrations. All images are marker, pen and ink on paper that I created about Cajal through researching his scientific drawings on display at the National Institutes of Health, and other primary sources as a Fulbright Scholar at the Instituto Cajal.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

I focused time and creative energy on self-care this past calendar year. During the summer, I drove from South Carolina to Brooklyn, New York to immerse myself in the city and the natural beauty of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and draw. This past summer, other terrific events were happening in New York, like the Cézanne exhibition at MoMA. Taking in different cultural events was enriching, but I found my time drawing at the BBG to be the most spiritually, emotionally and creatively replenishing.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Japanese Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, marker and 
pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Me, sweltering in the heat, but loving it, while drawing 
at the BBG.  June 2021.

2021 and Aesthetic Instincts: The Intersection of Art and Science

I have continued my artistic journey with Santiago Ramón y Cajal.  Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 2021 has been an extremely productive year.  I have continued an active engagement in my artistic series about Cajal.  To that end, new opportunities include:  selections from that series were featured in the international publication UpperCase (featured July 28 on this blog in the ¡Muchas gracias! post), I had a solo exhibition of the entire series in Las Vegas, and works from the series were chosen as featured artwork in the 75th Anniversary Exhibition for the Fulbright Foundation (held online). 

I presented a lecture about Santiago Ramón y Cajal to CSN students, faculty and the general public of the greater Las Vegas area on October 19, 2021. 

View of my exhibition at the College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas

The evening of my lecture, October 19, 2021

75th Anniversary Fulbright online, juried and curated, Exhibition:

It was an honor to have my work selected and featured in the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Foundation.  The time I spent at the Instituto Cajal was priceless and life changing.  When I began this series, I never dreamed that I would have access to his original journals, sketchbooks, personal photographs, histology slides, scientific equipment and personal objects.  You can learn more about the Fulbright exhibition by clicking:  HERE.

Re-creation of pages from Cajal's first sketchbook from Valencia, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Drawing Cajal's death mask, Instituto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

Re-creation of inside back cover of Cajal's first sketchbook from Valencia, Fulbright Espana, Instiuto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

100th Anniversary of the Instituto Cajal!
Continuing opportunities include that in celebration of the 100 anniversary of the Instituto Cajal, my work has continued to be displayed at the Instituto Cajal.  My work also continues to be displayed alongside Cajal’s work at the National Institutes of Health.

I currently have 10 drawings from my Fulbright research on display at the Instituto Cajal in celebration of its 100th Anniversary.  Below are two of the drawings from that display.  

For more information:  Instituto Cajal, Av. Doctor Arce, 37 28002, Madrid tel: 91 585 47 50 fax: 91 585 47 54

Drawing of NIH researcher Benjamin White's talk, marker on paper, 11" x 14", 2017.

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."

Select work on display at the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center:

Cajal exhibition case for scientific drawings.

My work on display alongside Cajal's scientific drawing.

My portrait of Cajal, Man as Sunflower, graphite, ink and acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"

Savannah and Simulacra
I was honored to have my artwork, Secluded Play selected for the Simulacra exhibition at the Sulfur studios in Savannah, Georgia.  The show consisted of many works of diverse media, materials and themes. My works Vegas Garden and Secluded Play were both select for inclusion in the show.

Vegas Garden, graphite, pen, ink and acrylic on paper.

Secluded Play, graphite, pen and ink on paper.

New Websites!

Lastly, as I wrap up 2021 I am overhauling my website.  Within the process I realize that I have created too much work thus far in my lifetime to be featured on one website. Trying to organize it for one place has proved difficult and overwhelming. 

During March of 2021, because my current Cajal series is so comprehensive, I consolidated all of my Cajal portfolios on my parent website: 

I felt unsure what to do with my other portfolios, like Spectacle Spectacular, Personified Doubles & Complementary Opposites, Blue Cerberus, etc. I concluded that a sister website was in order. Thus, was born. To eliminate confusion, I have branded both sites the same, linking back to each other. 

In addition to the portfolios I mentioned, I am also featuring new projects, like my Darcy Inventory, an installation selected for ArtFields 2022. I have also uploaded on the website my entire teaching portfolio at UofSC and included a curation of twelve other portfolios of my personal artwork, highlighting my Spectacle Spectacular series, that can be viewed:  HERE. Please visit both sites to browse and enjoy!

As we ring in the New Year, let us be reminded of these words of wisdom from Cajal:

"Time and concentration allow the intellect to perceive a ray of light in the darkness of the most complex problem."

― Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Advice for a Young Investigator

Have a Happy New Year everyone!  I wish you all lots of love, friendship, good health and great success during 2022!  XOXO

Dawn Hunter, December 2021

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

¡Muchas gracias!

A big thank you to Janine from #Uppercase for including artwork from my Cajal project in the 50th Issue, Visualizing Science.  I was so thrilled to receive the print issue - it's beautiful!  View the issue here: @uppercasemag.

"The brain is a world consisting of a number of unexplored continents and great stretches of unknown territory."

― Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Dawn Hunter, Re-creation of pages from Cajal's first sketchbook from Valencia, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Re-creation of inside back cover of Cajal's first sketchbook from Valencia, Fulbright Espana, 
Instiuto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

More work can be viewed at:  Cajal Project: The Fulbright Experience

Learn more about this work here:  Communing and Giggling with Cajal 

Order your copy of the 50th edition, Visualizing Science here:  UPPERCASE

Monday, July 26, 2021

Sumptuous Summer Landscape

I am spending the summer feeding the artistic soul, senses, and sensual while relishing my time Plein air drawing and painting the luscious landscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Highlights from the visual adventures. 

Dawn Hunter, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14," 2021

Dawn Hunter, Brooklyn Botanic Garden_2, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14," 2021

Dawn Hunter, Brooklyn Botanic Garden_3, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14," 2021

“consider the possibility that any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain, and that even the least gifted may, like the poorest land that has been well cultivated and fertilized, produce an abundant harvest.” 

― Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Birthday Amusements: Cajal Tweets Freud

On the advent of Cajal's birthday (1 de mayo de 1852), I have been amusing myself by imagining Cajal's reaction to two things.

First, the Psychology Department at UofSC commissioned a Founders of Psychology mural  painted by a colleague, Marius Valdes. The mural includes great pioneers from Psychology disciplines. The first time I saw it, I got a good chuckle because included among the featured figures was Cajal, but not Freud. Cajal disliked Freud and disagreed with his theories. He invested a great deal of time recording his dreams to disprove Freud.  Ultimately, Cajal decided that what he had did not merit publishing. 

Founders of Psychology Mural, UoSC Psychology Department, by Marius Valdes:

Second, I recently ran across the interview Freud gave in 1934, where he proclaimed that he was by nature an artist.   It was published in August of 1934. I wonder if Cajal ever saw it. If so, from the perspective of someone who was truly an artist, did he get a good laugh from it before his death in October of that same year? . . . . How, if given the opportunity would he respond in a tweet?

Digitally Fabricated Tweet by Dawn Hunter, Birthday Card Comedy for Cajal, April 29, 2021.  #neildegrassetyson  #steakumms

"Everybody thinks that I stand by the scientific character of my work and that my principal scope lies in curing mental maladies. This is a terrible error that has prevailed for years and that I have been unable to set right. I am a scientist by necessity, and not by vocation. I am really by nature an artist...My books, in fact, more resemble works of imagination than treatises on pathology." -Freud quote from Giovanni Papini interview, August, 1934.

Cajal, I am sure, would be much more gracious than my featured comedy routine above. All too often in our digital age powerful political and business leaders clashing on social media can be daunting, demoralizing, and cringe worthy. It is more fun imagining historical figures from the past colliding in the ether.

If you have not had a chance to see my new web site, please take a moment to check it out.  Here is a link to one of my Cajal Portfolio pages highlighting my experiences at the Cajal Institute as a Fulbright Scholar:  The Fulbright Experience.


antiago Ramón y Cajal, top Dawn Hunter, bottom.

Re-creation of inside back cover of Cajal's first sketchbook from Valencia, Fulbright Espana, Instiuto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

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.

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"

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Double Feature @ the NLM and USC

I am honored and humbled to have had another opportunity to write for the National Library of Medicine's Circulating Now.  The new piece, Communing and Giggling with Cajal, expands upon my work as a Fulbright España Senior Research Scholar investigating the Legado de Cajal located at the Instituto Cajal, Madrid.  The article specifically focuses on my examination of his first sketchbook from Valencia.  Below is a highlight feature from the article:  

"What can one discover about Cajal beyond visual aesthetics through the task of drawing?  Through drawing, one can engage in “active looking” which is another level of perceptual involvement.  How and who we are with and in our work matters.  It determines how we conceptualize, realize, understand and share.  Toni Morrison wrote in The Bluest Eye “Love is never any better than the lover.  Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly…”  Line qualities within a pictorial composition are behaviors that have ideographic subtext.  When retraced, they reveal the content of the maker’s reasoning and ideology beyond technique.  The eye always seeks quality in the perceptually drawn line. The line’s merit invariably betrays the artist through the sight of the other. Study someone’s drawings, and you can study some of their components as a person, value system as a maker, or at a minimum the underground agenda with their work.

On the pages of Cajal’s histology sketchbook, it appears as if his imagination is synchronized with popular concepts in 19th century Fantastique literature.  Strewn with jottings and drawings examining the inner workings of rabbits, mice, cows and pigs, his sketchbook, like Alice’s world has no real order:  it is upside down and backward, there are different points of time in departures, varied research themes, inconsistent goals, plus blank and missing pages.  Alice metaphorically falls down the rabbit hole; however Cajal’s sketchbook is the rabbit hole.  On the page marked “medual conejo” (rabbit marrow), he enters the matrix with unquestioning, commanding lines while sketching the cells of a “fresco” rabbit all the while taunting himself with a “Cheshire” like face hidden in a cell with the words “absolutemente maligno” written beside it.   This cellular Easter egg was a delicious discovery I made one day while recreating that page.   I, and others, had looked at the page previously, but the process of active looking through drawing refined my observation in a manner that allowed me to notice this blast from the past and share a private giggle with Cajal."

I am so flattered to have my project about Santiago Ramón y Cajal featured on the University of South Carolina's College of Arts and Science web site, Sojourn to Spain.  My experience in Madrid was thrilling, and the access to the Legado de Cajal exceeded all of my expectations.  I am so honored to have this opportunity to share my experiences with colleagues and others within the USC community and beyond.  Thank you Mary-Kathryn Craft and Peggy Binette. 

“Heroes and scholars represent the opposite extremes... The scholar struggles for the benefit of all humanity, sometimes to reduce physical effort, sometimes to reduce pain, and sometimes to postpone death, or at least render it more bearable. In contrast, the patriot sacrifices a rather substantial part of humanity for the sake of his own prestige. His statue is always erected on a pedestal of ruins and corpses... In contrast, all humanity crowns a scholar, love forms the pedestal of his statues, and his triumphs defy the desecration of time and the judgment of history.”  

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Advice for a Young Investigator

Monday, January 15, 2018

Drawing the Experience

"I am an artist, and I draw every day.  It is how I know and understand the world.  One day back in 2012, I was looking up neuroscience terminology to supplement an article I was reading on the claustrum, I stumbled across Cajal’s scientific drawings.  In the midst of trawling visuals on the web, I was swept away within “gesturely expressive” cellular images drawn in implied space.  I was dwarfed and transported into Cajal’s microscopic world.  Other neuroscience drawings were in the image cache, like those of Camillo Golgi.  However, I was not as taken with them, because Golgi’s illustrations were surrounded by a border that created closure and containment and possessed a topographical mannerism.  Based on those visual qualities, I felt Golgi’s drawings were “designed,” and that construction revealed a particular point of view regarding the role of drawing in his work:  that drawing was a vehicle to guide, transcribe, and organize nature in a manner that demonstrated a theory.  Instead of creating drawing from a designer’s perspective, Cajal’s work in comparison is drawn with a type of perceptual observation, one in which the inherent design of nature is discovered through sighting.  Drawing was a tool to observe, discern and recount microanatomy structure.  Cajal’s drawings are filled with actual lines and drawn with implied space.  I believe they demonstrate a philosophy that he was at the service of nature—recording and reporting the truthfulness of sight’s journey." - Dawn Hunter, November 2017

The above quote is from my piece "Drawn To, Drawn From Experience" written for the National Library of Medicine's, Circulating Now, blog.  It is the first of a three part series I am writing for them about Cajal, the latter two are forthcoming in 2018.

I completed my Senior Research Fulbright Fellowship at the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, España in December, 2017.  It was a remarkable privilege to commune with Cajal on a daily basis through studying and drawing his scientific illustrations.  There is information in those works that can only be accessed by active observation:  drawing.  Drawing provides a type of interaction with the works and entry into information about the maker and his theories that is not possible through passive observation.  Cajal proved to be a great teacher, and my "apprenticeship" yielded a fruitful scholarship of knowledge.  More, of course, is yet to come.  In the meantime, below are a couple of examples of my drawings of his drawings, as well as, information on my writing for the National Library of Medicine.

For more information about my past works on Cajal please visit my web site: or previous posts from this blog.  There are numerous posts about my Cajal project on this blog, here are a select few and some of my favorites to choose from:  Cajal Inventory, Cajal Inventory:  Head Heart and Spine, Sometimes Summer is All about the Work, and Started in the Middle.  

Dawn Hunter's study of Cajal's scientific drawing of pyramidal neurons, FRONT, 11" x 14," marker and pen on paper

Dawn Hunter's study of Cajal's scientific drawing of pyramidal neurons, BACK, 11" x 14," marker and pen on paper

Unfortunately, nature seems unaware of our intellectual need for convenience and unity, and very often takes delight in complication and diversity.

- Santiago Ramón y Cajal from his 1906 Nobel lecture 
"The structure and connexions of neurons."

Monday, June 19, 2017

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Cajal!

What better way than to spend the month of May?  With Santiago Ramón y Cajal in Spain of course! - his birthday month, born May 1, 1852.  A big thank you to Jeff Diamond, Juan De Carlos, Ricardo Martinez, Rosario Moratalla, and Fernando De Castro:  It was a privilege to participate as a symposium speaker and exhibit my work about Ramón y Cajal at the Instituto Cajal in Madrid as part of the second annual collaborative symposium between the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD and the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.  Below are some photos (and drawings) from the May 24th symposium in Spain and some of my new drawings completed this month at the NIH of Cajal's scientific drawings currently on display in the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center.

Dawn Hunter, Portrait of Cajal from observation of Jorge Zockoll's oversized photograph at the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, Diana the Huntress, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, drawing of the Cajal statue in Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

The NIH participants from left to right: Jeff Diamond, Benjamin White, Bruno Averbeck, me and Yarimar Carrasquillo seated in the Banco del Duque de Alba, en la Residencia de Estudiantes.  
Photo by Juan De Carlos Segovía.

Dawn Hunter, drawing of NIH researcher Benjamin White's talk, marker on paper, 11" x 14" 

Dawn Hunter, drawing of NIH researcher Kenton Swartz's talk,  marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14" 

During the installation of my Cajal Inventory work at the Instituto Cajal.  For more information on the Cajal Inventory work, click here:  Cumulative Effect:  Cajal Inventory drawings.

Dawn Hunter, study of Cajal's Intestinal Villi, Interstitial Cells of Cajal, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, drawing of Cajal's Development of Granule Cells in the Cerebellum, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study of Cajal's Olfactory Bulb, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Dawn Hunter, study of Cajal's Diencephalic Nuclei, marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14"

Portrait of me with Cajal's Nobel Prize, photo by Ricardo Martínez.

Installation of the Cajal Inventory drawings at the Instituto Cajal, May 2017.  Photo by Dawn Hunter.