The Retina – Part II

After finishing the SciArt Center residency with Darcy Johnson, I eagerly returned to this project. It is based on a pretty well known sciart image of a mouse retina, which is much more complex than those on which I’ve based most of my previous work. I knew that this project would take a very long time to complete, but was willing to spend all of the necessary time and effort to do this image justice and not lose the important details.

This project was very different from all of my previous artwork for several reasons. This was the first time I immediately began to work on canvas, rather than fabric that would later be stretched into a picture frame. It was definitely more convenient than stretching fabric that already has 3 dimensional bead work attached to it, but canvas was also a bit more challenging to sew through. And speaking of sewing, this is the first piece I did that primarily involved sewing of beads to canvas, rather than threading them onto wires and creating shapes using the french beading technique. The new approach was necessary to obtain the right level of density. One of the unexpected, but retrospectively obvious, problems I ran into was sewing beads around the perimeter of the canvas. It did not occur to me beforehand that the wooden frame would get in the way. To solve this problem, I ended up having to buy curved needles, similar to ones used in surgery, which were quite difficult to find in stores, as well as to maneuver through the canvas.

For the first time, here I decided to work with one color at a time. The layer with the light blue structure took me a long time to complete. To create the necessary volume for the blue branches (the blood vessels), I first had to sew layers of rope to the canvas. The rope I bought was similar to the type used for shoe laces. The blue beads needed to be sewn around it in tightly packed vertical circles.

Then I eagerly started to fill in the red background. In order to retain the pattern of straight lines, I had to thread the needle underneath the blue branches. All of the red lines are only attached to the fabric at their ends, making this work as fragile as the neuronal axons that it depicts.

Not only was this a very involved and tedious process, but this project also challenged me in that I had to allow myself to lose control and not follow a set pattern. I intentionally made the spaces between the red strands uneven, as this image needs to be more natural and stochastic than logical. And nature, as we all know, can sometimes be a bit random. I love how the red lines spread out like a fan from a common midpoint that leads to the optic nerve. Where is it, you might ask? Well, this is a highly zoomed in image and the center actually falls outside of its borders. But the red lines, just like rays of light, can point you to the source.

Also please follow me on Instagram for more up to date pictures of my work in progress!

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