Gail Priday
Lichen
2016
Oil on Canvas
20 x 16 inches
Lichen

After spending months learning about microbial worlds and looking at imagery under the microscope, I felt challenged as to how to make art in response. Most of the work I do is visually inspired. I see something and respond to the colors and forms, looking again and again. Although I could look at the microscopic world through the microscope and at photographs of those views, the imperceptible microbial world was so unfamiliar to me. This painting of lichenised fungi allowed me to respond in the way I normally do when making art. It was the first piece I made for this show and acted as a gateway to making art about the microscopic world.

Lichen have traditionally been thought of as two organisms working together. The filamentous fungus acts as a protector from the environment, providing shelter and stability while the algae or cyanobacteria provide food through photosynthesis. The fungus benefits from the energy while the algae or cyanobacteria are protected. Recently, scientists found that lichen have a third partner, yeast, although their role is not yet understood. Together they are able to survive in places where they could not make it alone, they are a self-sufficient team. Lichen formation enables its partners to expand into habitats and environments they might not survive alone. The symbiotic associations within the microbial world are rich with metaphors for all life.
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