After what can only be described as a monumental effort, today was the day that I could finally take a step back and see, for the very first time, the completed project in its entirety.
I had reached a point in semester where the clock was most definitely ticking, and time was running out to put the finishing touches on this project. I had collected an enormous array of different leaves and pieces of bark, and spent hours in the Makerspace over the past week meticulously laser cutting different botanical illustrations into the medium. Carefully, I transported them across the Innovation Campus and began the process of securing them to the wall with some tiny pins, a small hammer, two pairs of pliers and a whole lot of patience.
I had a rough idea in my mind about what the set up would look like, but was very pleased to see it come together physically. My intention was to have the leaves sprawled across the span of the wall, positioned in an upward sweeping motion as if they had been swept up by a gust of wind. The leaves would then be lit with a single spotlight, to create some dramatic shadows and further accentuate the laser cut illustrations. To the side, I thought it would be important to feature some of the archival material, that is, textbooks and illustrations from my own grandmother. I placed these on a raised, black table, with the intention of giving the viewer some greater contextual background to the piece, without drawing the primary attention away from the laser cut materials on the wall.
This project has been an immense learning experience, and has brought me great joy throughout the entire journey. I found it absolutely fascinating to learn about the secret feminist history of botanical illustrations, and even more so, my grandmother’s own talent in the creation of the art. The way these two coincidentally aligned mid way though the project was incredibly exciting, and gave me great motivation to continue to pursue the work.
Not only this, but my own personal skills with the use of the laser cutter have been challenged and improved significantly over this semester, as I have had the chance to participate in numerous experiments with a range of mediums I do not normally use. In turn, I have generated quite an interest in this project from other members of the Makerspace. It is my hope that this leads to increased visibility of the creative pursuits available to students, and in addition, an increased motivation for women working in both the creative and STEM fields to continue to chase their passions.
I am incredibly proud of how this project has come together, and all that I have learnt along the way. Of course, there are always things I would do differently given the chance to try again, but in this case my primary concern would be with regard to time management and more extensive experimentation given the better organisation of my resources.
All in all, I reflect upon this final MEDA installation with great joy and satisfaction, and look forward to presenting it to my classmates, peers and friends next week in a well earned evening of celebration.
I am exploring the medium of the laser cutter by pushing its conventional boundaries, use, and function. By working with the laser cutter to cut into natural materials such as bark and leaves, I challenge the fixed relationship between the natural and technological worlds, and play with the tension between algorithmic designs and the organic characteristics of natural forms.
Botanical illustrations provide an intergenerational narrative to these representations, specifically the historical role of women have played, often as the unacknowledged illustrators, specimen collectors, and naturalists who have made important contributions to science. Figures such as Georgiana Malloy and Maria Sibylla Merian are testament to women’s presence in male-dominated scientific fields.
This work brings into focus the importance of diversity in thinking in all creative disciplines including STEM. My work is created in a contemporary Makerspace, where the visibility of women is more important than ever as we move into a technological world.