Art Projects Look to Science for Inspiration

Art professors Lindsey Dunnagan and Francine Fox promoted interdisciplinary studies by inviting their students to sketch or paint in partnership with the sciences for first-hand experience with live, unique subjects.

Dunnagan’s class worked with science professors, including Jay Bauman, Elisabeth Hooper and Timothy Waston. Bauman taught students how to attach reflective nodes to their bodies and capture motion in 360 degrees by using special recording devices in the Piper Lab. Students painted how meaning is conveyed in body movements using the technology.  

In another project, students painted plants and animals from the greenhouse using elements of a Japanese marbling technique and seed collections. Walston also set up a lab for students to investigate single cell organisms from pond water. The students also explored how other objects, such as dried plants, a cracked egg and clothes, looked when magnified a thousand times.  

Teams within Fox’s class created multi-panel pieces of artwork centering on a given theme to render realistic representations of their subject matter. Later depictions also included distortions of their imagery to better communicate their concepts.

Classes, such as intermediate drawing exploration and advanced drawing, sketched live specimens, taxidermy, skeletal displays and greenhouse specimens during a week of classes. Other students visited labs to draw tiny organisms as observed through a microscope.

While most drawing classes work with direct observation, the opportunity to work in the lab allowed students to draw from a variety of living creatures outside their traditional setting. Dunnagan said this type of cross-disciplinary project allows for unique thinking to explore subject matter and experimentation.

Inspiration from organisms challenged students to embrace resources available through labs in Magruder Hall, as well as seek first-hand encounters, even if the subject matters they need are more unusual. It also encouraged students to interact with fields where their expertise in art and design may be useful as a career in art is multifaceted rather than relegated to the studio.

Dunnagan and Fox look forward to finding more hidden gems Truman has to offer across campus and building new projects from interdisciplinary work.  Works will be on display on the third floor of Magruder Hall from April 18-27.