Science and art meet in the exhibition California Species:
Biological Art & Illustration, on view at the Oakland Museum
of California. This juried exhibition of 60 recent, original works
by 46 artists celebrates the diversity of plant and animal species native to California.
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.
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.
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.
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