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Homage to Maria Sibylla Merian

   by Nancy Arthur-McGehee for Re-Invent a Work of Art (2013)

Inspiration Piece: Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam, 1719. Plate 28

Inspiration Artist: Maria Sibylla Merian

Chavant Modeling clay:
I shaped and sculpted the clay over a wire armature. Then I painted first with Zinsser B.I.N Primer Shellac Base, and spray painted with Tamiya Color for Polycarbonate using colors Camel Yellow PS-19, Bright Green, PS-25, and Translucent Light Blue PS-39.

Wire:
I used wire to make the armature frame for the plant. I also used it to attach to the plant to board after the plant was painted. I wanted the adult insects legs to appear articulated and used several pieces of wire placed in a drill and twisted, than placed the twisted wire in a rolling milling machine to flatten. After the flattened wire was shaped to represent legs it was painted with Gesso and acrylic paint.

Sculpey Polymer Clay:
Sculpey was used for the main body of the adult insect and for the body of the fly. The shapes were refined by carving details with a knife, smoothed with diamond abrasive cloth then painted with Gesso and acrylic paint.

Jute rope:
I used little trimmings of jute for hair on the egg, also unraveled to separate single pieces to knot one end and paint for the fly’s antenna. The knot in the jute also served as a good anchor to glue the antenna to the body and also serves as eye.

Hot glue:
I swirled hot glue around wire to create the articulations on the adult’s antenna. I also used small amounts of hot glue to attach the fly, egg, and larva to the leaf.

Glue-All:
I dried Glue-All on a glass plate, than cut out wings for the fly with an exacto knife, drew the details on the wings with a copper colored Sharpie pen, and attached to the fly body with a small dollop of Glue-All. I also attached the jute antenna to the fly with a small amount of Glue-All, and secured the wire legs on the adult body by drilling holes into the main body and using Glue-All in the holes then sticking the wire legs in the holes to dry.

Wood Board:
Gesso and acrylic paint, drilled holes through the board to attach the plant armature after painting and to hang.

Friendly Plastic Pellets:
I heated and shaped the plastic to form the body of the larva, carved the legs with a knife, Gesso and acrylic paint.

My first encounter with the extraordinary works of Maria Sibylla Merian was at an exhibition of her work at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2008. I fell in love with her stylized designs of botanical subjects that include insects shown in all of their life stages. Her work is beautiful in design and movement, and also fascinating with accurate information about life stages of insects. What I admire most about Maria Sibylla Merian’s work is her keen observational studies as a scientist and her ability to recording those observations as an artist. She lived from 1647-1717. During her life the concept of metamorphosis was just beginning to be understood and it challenged established understandings of God. In some circles of society her work was considered heretical. That she did work of this quality and supported herself and two daughters as a single mother, three hundred years ago, is remarkable.

These are some of the reasons I choose a work by Maria Sibylla Merian for my Mystery Build. Creating it was a vacation of sorts from my usual work with engraved glass and scientific illustration. It was a challenge working with materials in the box that were unfamiliar for me, but proved to be as much fun as I can dream to have. My most sincere thank you to the organizers!

My first encounter with the extraordinary works of Maria Sibylla Merian was at an exhibition of her work at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2008. I fell in love with her stylized designs of botanical subjects that include insects shown in all of their life stages. Her work is beautiful in design and movement, and also fascinating with accurate information about life stages of insects. What I admire most about Maria Sibylla Merian’s work is her keen observational studies as a scientist and her ability to recording those observations as an artist. She lived from 1647-1717. During her life the concept of metamorphosis was just beginning to be understood and it challenged established understandings of God. In some circles of society her work was considered heretical. That she did work of this quality and supported herself and two daughters as a single mother, three hundred years ago, is remarkable.

These are some of the reasons I choose a work by Maria Sibylla Merian for my Mystery Build. Creating it was a vacation of sorts from my usual work with engraved glass and scientific illustration. It was a challenge working with materials in the box that were unfamiliar for me, but proved to be as much fun as I can dream to have. My most sincere thank you to the organizers!

 


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