Oct. 25, 2009
Exploring Darwin's Theory in Art
From Emory Report
Nancy Lowe goes to church more often than most. All she has to do is step outdoors, where she finds the sacred in nature. During breaks from her job as a lead research specialist in biology, you might see her sketching a leaf or a bug somewhere on campus.
"I'm an artist and a naturalist," she says. "Working as a lab technician is my day job."
Lowe's art is featured in the ongoing exhibit at Emory Libraries' Schatten Gallery, marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's "On the Origin of Species." The eclectic show includes original editions of "Origin," panoramic "nanoscapes" captured by electron microscopes and a retrospective of how poet Ted Hughes' work evolved.
Lowe's contribution is a series of luminous paintings called "Species Icons." On canvases glinting with gold leaf, a pitcher plant wears a halo and tube worms are strung with jewels.
"Medieval religious icons seem to glow with a certain power," Lowe says. "They're old and precious. I wanted to combine that feeling with the careful attention to detail in scientific illustration of organisms. For me, that's what's sacred - the amount of geological time that it has taken to evolve these species."
Careful observation is important to art, as well as science, she says. "I want my students to ask, ‘What's this little bristle for on this bug?' and realize that every structure is connected to some function. It all comes back to evolution."
The emphasis at Emory of combining science and art suits Lowe. "Infusing creativity into everything we do is one of the goals of Emory's strategic initiatives," she says. "I'm happy to be at a place that supports that."