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Recreation of a Rose

Artist Lisa Huyett Reimagines the Surface of a Petal




Lisa Huyett designs and installs a a large-scale installation titled "S.E.M. Rose" (Scanning Electron Microscope Rose), a re-creation of the surface of a rose petal, at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. The artist rendered the magnified image of a rose petal using a scanning electron microscope while a student in the university's interdisciplinary Art and Biology course.


"All of my work is inspired by nature and plant material. Patterns in nature give me inspiration for abstraction. It is a jumping-off point for my art, much of which is installation and site-specific," Huyett said. "I'm very interested in relating art to science. In this case, I am taking small, familiar material to make something large-scale."


Made entirely of red pipe cleaners, "S.E.M. Rose" grew out of Huyett's experience using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in the Art and Biology course, taught by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art Patricia Maurides. Scanning electron microscopy uses a beam of electrons to reveal the nanostructures of material surfaces at up to one million times their normal size. Under the guidance of Joseph Suhan, electron microscopist at the Electron Microscope Facility, Huyett magnified a rose petal 500 times, revealing bristly, knob-like structures that make up the velvety appearance of the petal. The artist replicated these buds by creating modules out of pipe cleaners. Each module, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, is composed of 100 pipe cleaners. In the course, an art studio-biology laboratory hybrid, students explore the fusion of art and biology and experiment creatively with scientific media.

"A multidisciplinary group of students has the opportunity to work together as they explore relationships between the fine arts and biological sciences," Maurides said. "They have the opportunity to use imaging technologies to create artworks that may range from animations and sculpture to artist books and performance works."

Huyett has worked with visitors of all ages who attend Saturday workshops at the Children's Museum to help craft the individual buds, which collectively resemble a large field of roses. Children as young as 3 have contributed to the sculpture, along with many older children, parents and grandparents. Huyett also taught several workshops with the Children's Museum's after-school YouthAlive! program for sixth- through eighth-graders, who completed one of the sculpture's large central modules.

To date, Huyett has used 35,000 pipe cleaners. Darice, a craft supplies outlet, has donated 60,000 total pipe cleaners to the project, all of which Huyett intends to use. She will spend two more Saturday mornings at the museum interacting with students to craft the exhibit.


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