Artist Statement, Cajal Portfolio
In my studio, a haven of creative exploration, I immerse myself in artistic discovery daily. Drawing in my sketchbook is the lifeblood of my practice, serving as a vital connection to the world around me. Each day brings new inspiration, some resulting in a single drawing while others yield as many as ten. These drawings often depict the landscapes surrounding me or the people who have left an indelible mark on my life. While only some of these drawings find their way to this website, there is a curated selection featured that can be discovered on my other website: www.dawnhuntervisualartist.com.
Beyond the daily ritual of sketching, I embark on long-term projects culminating in thematic series, driven by my passion for captivating subject matters and the potential to resonate with a broad audience. The intricate interplay of information, facts, and references is the foundation for my artistic expression, interpretation, and content conceptualization. Like the many retellings of Cinderella, the essence of the story remains the same, yet each version is brought to life through unique details and context. This reconceptualization breathes new life into familiar narratives, allowing them to transcend time and evoke fresh perspectives.
To ignite this process of reimagining, I dive into research, guided by intuition and inference, while scrutinizing facts. My creative journey is marked by investigation, discovery, reevaluation, and exploration. By embracing this approach, I can broaden the conversation, venture into uncharted territory, and craft a tapestry of insight that gives each work its distinct and highly recognizable texture. In this way, I continually strive to contribute meaningful and relevant artistic expressions to the world.
My artistic journey has been profoundly shaped by my experience as a medical illustrator for the new edition of Human Neuroanatomy, published by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing in 2017 and authored by Dr. James R. Augustine from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. While crafting illustrations for this seminal work, I delved into the rich history of brain anatomy illustration. I found myself captivated and inspired by the remarkable drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. His work embodies scientific significance, undeniable artistic merit, and a keen sense of observation.
In homage to Cajal's legacy, I have embarked on an ambitious and multi-faceted project: Aesthetic Instincts: the Intersection of Art and Science in the Life of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Through this series of vivid drawings and paintings, I seek to explore and represent the life of Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934), a trailblazer in the field of neuroscience and the father of modern neuroanatomy.
Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.
~Santiago Ramón y Cajal
My artwork fuses Cajal's intricate neuronal drawings with biographical elements, imaginative narratives, and elements of surrealism. Cajal, a Nobel Laureate, was the first to reveal that the nervous system consists of individual units known as neurons, which are interconnected through synapses. His elegant drawings of these neurons not only laid the groundwork for our understanding of the nervous system but also revealed the beauty and complexity of these intricate structures.
Through my artistic lens, I aim to "profile" Cajal, exploring into the psychodynamic aspects of his life and examining the interplay between subjective experiences and his scientific achievements. By recreating Cajal's own drawings, I strive to comprehend the role of creative arts in shaping his groundbreaking work, ultimately revealing the intricate tapestry of his life and the influences that shaped his unique perspective.
"The first time I drew Cajal's work, it was a conversation and one in which he spoke clearly through 'the noble and enigmatic cell of thought.' He taught me a lot that day, changing how I think about him and approach my artistic work—forever." - Dawn Hunter from National Library of Medicine's, Circulating Now: Communing and Giggling with Cajal. I am immensely grateful for the support, encouragement, and opportunities provided by countless individuals throughout this project. Their passion and dedication have fueled my own, allowing me to delve deeper into Cajal's life and work. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Instituto Cajal, NIH, USC, the Augustine family, and many others who have played a pivotal role in my artistic journey.
~ Dawn Hunter, April 2023, University of South Carolina