A wonderful essay!

Karen 11/14/2017
Karen Reeds
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From: Circulating Now from NLM <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 11:00 AM
Subject: [New post] Drawn To, Drawn From Experience
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Circulating Now posted: "Circulating Now welcomes Dawn Hunter, Associate
Professor, School of Visual Art and Design, University of South Carolina
and Fulbright España Senior Research Fellow at the Instituto Cajal in
Madrid, Spain. Her new body of work is a suite of biographical d"
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New post on *Circulating Now from NLM*
<> Drawn To, Drawn
From Experience
Circulating Now <>

Circulating Now* welcomes Dawn Hunter
<>, Associate Professor,
School of Visual Art and Design, University of South Carolina and Fulbright
España Senior Research Fellow at the Instituto Cajal in Madrid, Spain. Her
new body of work is a suite of biographical drawings and paintings about
Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience.  Her series is
comprised of creative works and formal investigations of Cajal's scientific
drawings that are currently on display
<> at the
John Porter Neuroscience Research Center at the National Institute of
Health, Bethesda, MD.*

Every great drawing—even if it is of a hand or the back of a torso, forms
perceived thousands of times before—is like the map of a newly discovered
island.  Only it is far easier to read a drawing than a map; in front of a
drawing it is the five senses that make a surveyor."

—John Berger from* A Painter of Our Time*

The wholly integrated experience of phenomena is powerful.  The union of
the mind's curiosity, the heart's passion, and the body's senses sing a
chorus that reminds us of the wonder of our own existence.  The U.S. 2017
solar eclipse was that experience for many.  However, it was also
predictable.  Sitting on the front steps of my home in South Carolina,
steeped in the avalanche of media coverage, I experienced the path of
totality only with my mind; my brain perfectly primed with expectations.
The forecast sound bites focused the quality of celestial delivery, and by
doing so reduced the universe to a branded experience.  It may sound like I
am complaining, but I am not.  The obstacle of mediated experience served
as a reminder to value those encounters when I experience the
extraordinary, nonaligned, for myself.  While ignorance is not bliss, on
rare occasions, it can be a blessing—allowing new, unexpected experience of
phenomena to rival the first time one bit into a luscious strawberry or
walked across hot sand.  Encountering Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s scientific
drawings of the nervous system for the first time was one such
extraordinary experience for me.
[image: An abstract, surreal drawing including a silhouette head with
brain, neurons, and medical imagery.]

Dawn Hunter, Surreal portrait of Cajal, pen, marker and ink on paper, 5.5”
x 13” from my handmade sketchbook, 2015

I am an artist, and I draw every day.  It is how I know and understand the
world.  One day back in 2012, I was looking up neuroscience terminology to
supplement an article I was reading on the claustrum
<>, I stumbled across
Cajal's scientific drawings.  In the midst of trawling visuals on the web,
I was swept away within "gesturely expressive" cellular images drawn in
implied space.  I was dwarfed and transported into Cajal's microscopic
world.  Other neuroscience
drawings were in the image cache, like those of Camillo Golgi
However, I was not as taken with them, because Golgi's illustrations were
surrounded by a border that created closure and containment and possessed a
topographical mannerism.  Based on those visual qualities, I felt Golgi's
drawings were "designed," and that construction revealed a particular point
of view regarding the role of drawing in his work:  that drawing was a
vehicle to guide, transcribe, and organize nature in a manner that
demonstrated a theory.  Instead of creating drawing from a designer’s
perspective, Cajal's work in comparison is drawn with a type of perceptual
observation, one in which the inherent design of nature is discovered
through sighting.  Drawing was a tool to observe, discern and recount
microanatomy structure.  Cajal's drawings are filled with actual lines and
drawn with implied space.  I believe they demonstrate a philosophy that he
was at the service of nature—recording and reporting the truthfulness of
sight’s journey.
[image: Black lines form an organic network like tree roots that extends
off the page.]
Cajal’s Drawing of Pyramidal Neurons, n.d.
Courtesy of the Legado Cajal at the Insituto Cajal

[image: A building like structure inscribed with nerve anatomy seen from
between large leafed branches on the bottom and feathery leaved branches on
the top.]
Dawn Hunter, Cajal and Golgi juxtaposed against Cajal’s drawing of their
opposing theses, acrylic and ink on paper, 11” x 14”, 2015

[image: Black orderly treelike networks arranged virtically within the page
on a yellow background.]
Golgi’s Drawing of Pyramidal Neurons, 1885
Courtesy of Museo Golgi, University of Pavia

[image: A photographic portrait in profile, of a middle aged man in a full
beard.] <>

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, ca. 1906

Intrigued and invigorated, I felt an urgent need to learn more.  I pursued
my interest in Cajal without any foreknowledge of his monumental identity
within modern neuroscience.  I quickly learned the basics:  Santiago Ramón
y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934) was a Spanish histologist
<> and the first person
to demonstrate that the nervous system was made up of individual units
(neurons) that were independent of one another but linked together at
points of functional contact called synapses.  Cajal was a 1906 Nobel
Laureate in Physiology or Medicine awarded jointly to another
neuroscientist, Camillo Golgi "in recognition of their work on the
structure of the nervous system,” however, their research was mutually
exclusive and embraced opposing theses.  Cajal used and later refined a
silver staining technique developed initially by Golgi to see the structure
of neurons.  He illustrated the results of his studies with elegant
drawings of the neurons that he proposed worked independently or
collectively, each individual unit participating simultaneously in
individual or multiple neuron functions.  Santiago Ramón y Cajal is
considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience.
[image: Half-tone photograph of a muscular young man posing with no shirt.]

Ramón y Cajal, 1871
In *Recuerdos de Mi Vida*, 1923

From the beginning, Cajal has made me laugh because I began “knowing him”
by reading his science fiction writing, *Vacation Stories*, published under
the pseudonym, Dr. Bacteria.  Anyone with that pseudonym has a great sense
of humor, right?  It framed my perception of the *Vacation Stories* as
sublimation for personal and professional frustrations while being
intentionally campy.  Cajal’s psychological complexity revealed itself when
I read his memoir *Recollections of My Life*
As I perceive it, the autobiography was written with unguarded honesty, and
the breadth of content he shared about himself and his research captivated
me. I was particularly struck at times with his humor.  Like the devotion
of three highly descriptive paragraphs letting the reader know that not
only was he very physically fit and muscular in his bodybuilding “selfie”
photo published in the book shot at age nineteen, but that in real life he
was bigger and more defined than the photo captures.  His autobiography
also touched my heart, especially when he shared the hardships of his
boarding school days and the level to which his particular learning style
was misunderstood.  Cajal, an experience based learner, was unable to
conform to the educational standards and had great difficulty learning from
the method that required memorization and repetition of large amounts of
information.  He was rebellious, and his teachers were intolerant and
unleashed extreme and harsh punishments that were physical and
psychological assaults.

Childhood hardships did not diminish Cajal's innate pioneering spirit, a
temperament that may have been spurred by a formative experience at the age
of eight.  On July 18, 1860, Cajal witnessed the totality of a solar
eclipse and the excitement surrounding Warren de la Rue
arrival in Spain to record the moment of totality for the first time in
history with photography.  The occasion inspired a lifelong appreciation of
astronomy in Cajal.  Many have speculated over the years that this was the
seminal event that planted the seeds of his scientific rigor.  The eclipse
totality dwarfed Cajal in the universe and provided a new context for his
existence.  Judging from the intensity, directness, and wonder of his
drawings, it was a context he never left.
[image: A landscape with castle like buidlings and a head in profile with
anatomical overlay.]

Dawn Hunter, Cajal on May Day, pen and ink on paper, 5.5” x 13” from my
handmade sketchbook, 2015

By proxy, with those seeds firmly sewn in me, my fascination has grown into
a comprehensive visual art project about him titled *"Aesthetic Instincts:
the Intersection of Art and Science in the life of Santiago Ramón y Cajal."
* I have developed theses about him and inform my project with primary
source material.  As a Fulbright España Senior Research Fellowship at the
Instituto Cajal in Madrid, Spain, I am currently researching the archives
of the Legacy of Cajal.  After I read his autobiography, *Recollections of
My Life* a part of me that felt like some key aspects of Cajal (his humor,
and how he imagined himself—particularly in his youth) were absent from the
mainstream discourse patterns about him.  I view my drawings and paintings
as educational tools that address art, history, and neuroscience and that
splice and fuse his animated neurons, with representations of biographical
elements, fictional narratives, and surrealism.  My artwork highlights his
personality traits and his private value system essential to his unique
scientific insight that led to his great discovery:  that the nervous
system is comprised of individual, independent biological units, i.e.
[image: A composition based on a portrait of Cajal as a young man and one
of his medical illustrations.]
Dawn Hunter, Cajal as Bodybuilder juxtaposed against a retina drawing, pen,
marker and ink on paper, 11” x 14”, 2016

[image: A drawing of a drawing of nerve anatomy in soft colors.]
Dawn Hunter’s study of Cajal’s Intestinal Villi & Interstitial Cells, 11” x
14”, 2017 – this drawing of Cajal’s is currently on display at the John
Porter Neuroscience Center of the NIH

[image: A drawing of a drawing of nerve anatomy.]
Dawn Hunter’s study of Cajal’s cerebellum drawing, pen, ink and marker on
paper, 11” x 14”, 2016 – this drawing of Cajal’s was part of the first
exhibit of Cajal’s work at the John Porter Neuroscience Center of the NIH

Because of his complexity as a person and scientist, getting to know Cajal
requires investment.  Those who take the time are often, like me,
completely enthralled, enchanted and transformed by the phenomenological
*Circulating Now <>* |
November 14, 2017 at 11:00 AM | Tags: 1800s
<>, art
<>, medical illustration
<>, nervous
system <>, Nobel Prize
<>, Santiago Ramón y Cajal
<>, solar
eclipse <> |
Categories: Guests <> |

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