One week ago I was up all night at the Anne Kittrell Gallery, in the University of Arkansas Union, installing Now You See It! The Slime Mold Revelation. It's a spirited campus, and many encouraging visitors peeked in to see what was going on.
In some ways the installation process was a dream come true. With the help of the biology department I'd been awarded grant funding; plus I had a slew of unsuspecting, hard-working undergraduate helpers by my side.
In other ways the gallery space and the installation process were challenging. Hours were numbered. Walls were brown, like much of the stuff in the exhibit. The space was large and looming, with no shelves or cabinets for slime molds to appear in and on as they had in the Seattle library.
I waited until I arrived to figure out how to transition the exhibit from the library to the gallery, with this "curiosity cabinet" component being a main concern. Lo and behold I found an old, locked case sitting unused in the lobby. Due to Gallery Coordinator Cori's fastidiousness, the keys to the case had not recently been deemed too mysterious to keep, and we all shared a magical moment when the lid was lifted.
Sculptures, gold plasmodium, petri dishes, specimens, and Dr. Stephenson's personal copy of the rare Myxomycetes of Japan all went in. Biologist Lora Lindley even brought over a dish of live Physarum polycephalum.
Also a challenge: things take longer than expected. These "sticky fabric" graphics are supposed to be slapped right up on one wall after another, but these Physarum roseum were slow to adapt to their new substrate.
The timelines telling the stories of 400 years of artists devoted to slime molds ended up unfolding along the wall of windows at the back of the room. The gold plasmodium that had been in the cabinets got divided up, appearing and reappearing throughout the space.
I wanted to obtain as few new materials as possible for this show. Luckily, the gallery had a drawer full of unused frames, and Cori was able to print off copies of my illustrations to fill them. Ramisa did a great job of hanging them in the sprawling fashion I'm fond of.
Some frames didn't have hanging mechanisms, But Ramisa and I agreed that it was more interesting to leave some empty-- plus, it's like, you know, undiscovered and unillustrated species. (This is a case where some VISITOR EVALUATION would indeed be nice, to learn whether folks find the empty frames obnoxious.)
Speaking of new species, here's the first-ever illustration of Perichaena longipes, my friend Laura Walker's recent Panamanian discovery.
Without further ado, some more photos of the opening.
A huge thanks to Dr. Stephenson (intrigued by the plasmodium, above), to the UARK biology department, the folks at the Anne Kittrell, and to all of you who made it through this blog post at home.