Monday, July 1, 2019
The passionate insect life of 'The Butterfly Man of Kuranda'
In 1895, a serious young man in a Queensland frontier mining town, with a wife and four children to support, suddenly quit as a bank employee to devote his life to the study and promotion of insects. His name was Frederick Parkhurst Dodd and he was determined to make an independent living from his raw entomological wits. For the next 42 years, until his death in Kuranda in 1937, he explored the then unknown tropical insects of Australia and New Guinea and sold tens of thousands of exquisite specimens to the great museums and wealthy collectors of Europe. When that market collapsed during the First World War, he developed sixty showcases of tropical insects, arranged in decorative designs and patterns. He showed these in his home for 20 years and toured them by train to the eastern states of Australia twice, renting public halls for their display. Forty of the original cases, in perfect condition, were passed to the Queensland Museum in 1987 where they have become an iconic emblem of that great era of the Victorian collector, who appreciated beauty as much as scientific interest.
North America: Portrait of a Continent
Five years ago, Anton Thomas picked up a set of colour pencils and began drawing North America. Without any idea how long it might take, he became utterly submerged in a cartographic odyssey: North America: Portrait of a Continent. From city to city, state to state, he examined the physical and human geography of the continent for half a decade, finally completing this expansive map in February. Diverse content by the tens of thousands can be found across the map, from the Arctic to Central America, even the deepest trenches of the ocean. Particularly prominent are the thousands of animals that roam its 59 x 47-inch dimensions, where Anton researched the wildlife of North America in-depth, as well as the extensive use of fauna and flora in regional symbology. His techniques of drawing species at very small sizes were refined through these thousands of drawing hours, and he will be sharing some of these approaches in his talk. He will also take us on a journey into the map, while discussing the dilemmas and opportunities he encounters during his cartographic experience of science illustration.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Sometime in the 1970s, I embarked on a quest to photograph every Australian reptile species. This has taken me to some of the most remarkable parts of the continent, but as I gather more images the goal recedes. New reptiles are being discovered and named faster than I can photograph them. On current count, Australia is home to 1050 described species. I will never get pictures of them all but it is fun trying!
As well as sheltered bays and shaded forests, Australia features some of the harshest places on the planet. I marvel at the ability of some reptiles do not simply exist but actually thrive in these habitats. There are times when the only living thing moving is a lizard! It is my good fortune to grow up with a passion for reptiles in a country so richly endowed. I have also been a lucky traveller to some of the world’s most significant herpetological hotspots including Borneo, Madagascar, the Galapagos, Namibia and Arizona. To understand the peculiar nature of my own country, it helps to view it from a global perspective. Curiously, as I have delved into rainforests and deserts I continually encounter the seemingly familiar on opposite sides of the world. Despite the famously unique character of Australian wildlife, some of them have doppelgangers. There are analogues out there that have followed the same evolutionary trajectories.
I will take my audience on a guided Australian tour of the reptiles that fascinate me and the places they live, starting in my own home. There will also be short excursions to far-flung parts of the world. Many of my pictures have stories behind them. I will share some of these with you and rest assured, most of them are true.
Where Song Began
Renowned for its unusual mammals, Australia is a land of birds that are just as unusual. Compared with birds elsewhere, ours are more likely to be intelligent, aggressive and loud, to live in complex societies, and to be large and long-lived. They’re also ecologically more powerful, exerting more influences on forests than birds in other regions of the world.
But unlike our mammals, the birds did not keep to Australia; they have spread around the globe. Australia provided the world with its songbirds and parrots, the most intelligent of all bird groups, and with large numbers of pigeons. All the robins, thrushes and nightingales in an English wood have Australian ancestors, and so do the blue jays, chickadees and mockingbirds in North America. In fact, more than half the world’s bird species can be traced back to Australia, making it the most important of all the continents for bird evolution
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Maria Fernanda Cardoso & Geoff Thompson
Making Sense of Artful Science: The Art of Model Making in the Natural Sciences
As a visual artist and visual thinker, I believe in the power of images and objects to communicate concepts. As the old adage goes, ‘an image is worth a thousand words’. But as a sculptor, I also believe in the power of three-dimensional models, not only to create and embody knowledge but also to trigger high-order thinking in others, (including the maker herself).
Geoff will speak about the technical challenges of photographing beautiful, tiny, Australian peacock spiders in collaboration with Maria Fernanda Cardoso and Andy Wang. One image required 12 focus stacks, each made from a hundred, 20-megapixel source images, before merging these twelve, with Photoshop, into one 88 megapixel image. Abdomens were spread with micro-pins, by Andy, to display their full beauty. The art prints made from two of these photographs have recently been purchased jointly by the Tate Gallery in London and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Ellis Rowan: A Flower-Hunter in the Tropics
Ellis Rowan (1848-1922) was Australia’s most celebrated flower painter of her day. Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Rowan began exhibiting her paintings in about 1873. After meeting the world-traveling English artist Marianne North in 1880, she took up a life of travel and adventure, stressing the importance of recording her subjects in their natural settings.
Rowan first visited Queensland in 1887 and found the bold, tropical flowers “more beautiful than all”. She returned on several “flower-hunting” expeditions – in 1891, 1892, 1911, 1912 and 1913 – to make a fairly systematic collection of the state’s flora. In 1912, upon staging an exhibition in Brisbane, she challenged the state government to purchase 125 paintings which are now in the collection of the Queensland Museum. She also traveled to other remote parts of Australia and, in 1916-17, to Papua New Guinea.
In a career spanning 50 years, Ellis Rowan produced more than 3000 paintings, some of which she duplicated, and exhibited as far afield as London and New York. Also a skilled writer and publicist, she recounted her travels in a book titled A Flower-Hunter in Queensland and New Zealand, published in 1898.