Art/Science Collaborations > In a Time of Change

Lichen Cross Section
Lichen Cross Section
paper collage
12x12 inches

collected by the Anchorage Museum

Lichen Cross Section is an observational piece inspired by the cellular structure of a lichen. Lichen are composed of algal or cyanobacterial cells living symbiotically with strands of fungi. It was recently discovered that yeast, which are another type of fungi, are a third partner in the lichen symbiosis. Lichen are interesting in that we can see them without the use of a microscope. The many algal and fungal components are microscopic, yet when they are all together they make up the plant-like organisms we see on rocks and branches. This piece zooms in to show the lichen under a microscope.

I viewed different types of lichen in a variety of ways. Initially, I swabbed the surface and cultured agar plates. This revealed a wealth of life, but not the cellular structure I was looking for. Preparing slides with feather-thin slices of lichen provided me with the visually and metaphorically rich imagery I craved. I took photographs through the lens of the microscope and used the photographs along with scientific illustrations of lichen cross-sections to create this piece. The forms and colors are based on biology but are infused with imagination.
The processes of science and art are so similar. With both, a question or problem needs to be solved and the path to solve it is rarely straight. I found that preparing slides and using a microscope required skills and demanded practice much like using a printing press or mixing colors.