The unfortunate disappearance and triumphant return of the formerly smelly slime mold

Last week I turned 30. To celebrate, I had the grand opening of the exhibit I've been curating / designing / fabricating over the last 9 months. I'll share some photos of the party soon, but first, an important back-story about one of many obstacles I faced in the week and a half preceding.

Slime Mold Life Cycle concept sketch, presented via Skype to my friend / biologist Laura Walker.

Slime Mold Life Cycle concept sketch, presented via Skype to my friend / biologist Laura Walker.

A slime mold's life in ink

A slime mold's life in ink

The above images illustrate how a slime mold's life works. Complex, bizarre, and combining aspects of the lives of animals and fungi, this cycle has befuddled scientists and scientific illustrators for centuries. I decided to translate the scientific storyline into a giant gilded installation across the wall of the Library. 

My friend Tom came all the way from Upstate NY to help me install it. 

My friend Tom came all the way from Upstate NY to help me install it. 

Tom and I installed this cardboard sculpture of a plasmodium (a young, one-celled slime mold) a week and a half before the opening. But, the Library made us take it down. Earlier, I wrote about my desire to make exhibits completely out of "sustainable" and biodegradable materials. But as I said, this time around, I used some spraypaint. Turns out, the Library is not cool with spraypaint. 

slime mold in the backyard

slime mold in the backyard

Traveling plasmodium

Traveling plasmodium

So, we took it down and shoved it back in my trunk. This time Tom didn't bother to lay between its layers, clinging to it to keep it from escaping as I drove across town. 

Adaptation

Adaptation

What was I going to do? I couldn't spend more money on the plasmodium. My mom was in town by now. We started making a new one in the most sustainable way possible, out of my vast piles of paper waste from the exhibit design process. But it looked a lot like trash. 

Zhongming sips wine with a thriving slime mold

Zhongming sips wine with a thriving slime mold

To make a long story short, my mom and I found an environmentally friendly sealant at an environmentally friendly hardware store, slathered it on the by then well-worn sculpture, and convinced the library that all was well. They very kindly allowed us to stick it back up on the wall. It looks way better than trash, I think, but I will probably steer clear of spray paint from now on.