Dawn Hunter: describes her process.
"My work has been profoundly influenced by scientific illustration. My artistic practice and aesthetic interests took on a new direction after I served as a medical illustrator for the new edition of Human Neuroanatomy, published by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing in 2017 by Dr. James R. Augustine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine. While creating illustrations for this textbook, I researched the history of brain anatomy illustration and was particularly struck and inspired by Cajal's drawings because they possess artistic merit and a particular type of observation.
I am creating a series of drawings and paintings titled Aesthetic Instincts: the Intersection of Art and Science in Santiago Ramón y Cajal's life. The installation is a comprehensive biographical creative project that, through visual art, examines and represents the life of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934). Cajal was a Spanish scientist and the first person to demonstrate that the nervous system was made up of individual units (neurons) independent of one another but linked together at functional contact points called synapses. Cajal illustrated his histology results with elegant drawings of neurons that he proposed work independently or collectively. Each unit can participate simultaneously in individual or multiple neuron functions. Cajal was a 1906 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine awarded jointly to another neuroscientist, Camillo Golgi (1843-1926), "in recognition of their work on the nervous system structure," however, their research was mutually exclusive and embraced opposing theses. Santiago Ramón y Cajal is considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience."
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If a solution fails to appear ... and yet we feel success is just around the corner try resting
for a while... Like the early morning frost, this intellectual refreshment withers the parasitic and nasty vegetation that smothers the good seed. Bursting forth at last is the flower of truth."
― Santiago Ramón y Cajal
"Explore my 'Cajal Inventory,' a blend of art, history, and neuroscience, featuring 45 plus unique pieces in an ongoing project, each measuring 11"x14". Each work, created using various materials, reflects the life of Ramón y Cajal and my creative journey. Some pieces serve as educational tools, interpreting Cajal's neuroscience, while others illuminate his domestic life, providing a more comprehensive image of the scientist.
By studying and recreating Cajal's work, including some lost over time, I aim to capture the context and essence of his research. My work highlights aspects often overlooked in Cajal's mainstream image, such as his humor and youthful self-perception."
"In my work, I use color theory to emphasize the complementary aspects of Cajal's personal and professional life, particularly his marriage. My chosen palette of three complementary color pairs reflects Cajal's harmonious union with his wife, Silveria, and their children—a union Cajal often acknowledged as instrumental to his scientific achievements.
A selection from this series is currently on display at the NIH's John Porter Neuroscience Research Center, alongside Cajal's original scientific drawings. Join me in exploring the rich narrative of Ramón y Cajal's life and work through my artistic lens."
~ Dawn Hunter, University of South Carolina