Drawn from Nature: Where Art and Biology Converge


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In 1991 Union College began offering the course The Illustrated Organism. Co-teaching the twice-weekly, three-hour sessions, Professors Walter Hatke and Carl George encouraged students to use both artistic ability and scientific observation to understand the structure of living things. It was structured around three essential questions: How do form, shape, and space appear at the macro level? How do form, shape, and space appear at the micro level? And how do YOU think across biology and art? The course focused on five biological topics- tree shape, flower evolution, mammalian skulls, flight, and fish. Their course was an instant success and over the past two decades, it has been taught by numerous faculty members. The biologist provided lectures on the biological concepts as well as sample materials for the students to illustrate. The artist provided instruction and guidance as the students worked on their illustrations. Professor Sandra Wimer, a printmaker, and Professor George taught together, Professor Hatke joined forces with biologist Peter Tobiessen, and Professors Laini Nemett and Nicole Theodosiou offered the course most recently. Many students have reported that this focus on precise observation greatly aided their subsequent studies in medicine. Some have found the course to be an entré to art-related fields, including professional illustration. No matter where their careers have taken them, they appreciate the opportunity to have engaged in such a compelling interdisciplinary experience. This exhibition will offer an opportunity to enjoy the outstanding results former students achieved in The Illustrated Organism. It is hoped this unique course, a showpiece of liberal arts in action, will continue to make an impact well into the future.

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