Oakland Museum of California

Oakland, CA

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California Species: Biological Art & Illustration


Science and art meet in the exhibition California Species: Biological Art & Illustration, on view at the Oakland Museum of California Sept. 30, 2000 - May 13, 2001. This juried exhibition of 60 recent, original works by 46 artists celebrates the diversity of plant and animal species native to California. (left: Hans Peeters, Mountain Lion (Felis concolor), acrylic on panel, 33 x 57 inches)

The artworks were chosen by a panel of professional artists, illustrators and scientists. In addition to being aesthetically appealing and technically accomplished, they had to show native California species and habitats, and details shown had to be accurate. A wide variety of plant and animal species are represented, from delicate blossoms of redbud to the cobralike stalks of a pitcher plant, from a bulbous sea hare to a mountain lion observing possible prey. The artists employ a variety of media: acrylic, batik, colored pencil, graphite, gouache, linocut, computer-generated illustration, oil, pastel, scratchboard, serigraph, sculpture and watercolor. (left: Lee McCaffree, Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), watercolor, 18 x 21 inches)

This is the seventh exhibition of its kind presented by the Natural Sciences Department of the museum. The exhibition is curated by Gail Binder, Natural Sciences Preparator at the Oakland Museum of California. (left: Peter Gaede, Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), gouache on Arches watercolor paper, 20 x 30 inches)

The panel of judges included Ann Caudle, freelance illustrator and coordinator of the Science Illustration program at U.C. Santa Cruz; Carolynne Griffin, an artist and nature illustrator who teaches at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco and Oakland Zoos and the Strybing Arboretum; Katherine Gyorfi, graphic artist and freelance natural science illustrator whose clients have included Chevron, The Nature Conservancy, The University of Utah Press and the U.S. Forest Service; and Linda Kulik, designer, photographer, and Exhibits Department Chair at the California Academy of Sciences.

High quality scientific illustration and wildlife art brings the species to life. The biological illustrator must be an excellent observer, able to truly "see" the subject, and to clearly represent it with minimal interpretation. Because the work demands such close, considered, and often prolonged observation, it results in a particularly intimate relationship between the illustrator and the subject. The intensity of this relationship - the commitment of the artist - can be seen in the composition, expressiveness, detail and elegance of the artworks. (left: Barbara Banthien, Mule ears, Tiger swallowtail (Wyethia sp.; Papillo sp.), gouache and pencil, 18 x 15.5 inches framed)

Biological illustration is more useful than photography for some purposes. Illustrations can often clarify anatomy and other details that remain obscure in photographs. They are ideal for presenting a composite image, as in a field guide illustration. They are also used to show relationships in space and time within a scene, situations that are impossible or difficult to document through photography.

One of the best methods of learning about an organism is to draw or paint it. The challenge of accurately rendering an organism progressively focuses attention on all aspects of that organism. With this in mind, a drawing table at the back of the gallery will allow visitors to the exhibition to try their hand at drawing specimens. The exhibition will also be accompanied by public programs including hands-on family workshops and in-depth illustration technique classes for adults.

California Species: Biological Art & Illustration is made possible by the generous support of the Anne Macpherson/Ruth Williams Endowment for Biological Art & Illustration.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Oakland Museum of California.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/23/11

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