Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Naturalist, scientific illustrator, botanical artist, entomologist, social
activist, traveler, mother.
(this post has fallen victim of my desire to share all the wonders of this amazing woman. I love her work, her chutzpah, her interests and her paintings. Her work has also influenced many areas of my work, see below)
She is also an example of an strong independent woman as she traveled alone with her daughter Dorothea in pursuit of her work. In 1699, Merian received a grant from the city of Amsterdam allowing Merian to travel to the Dutch colony of Surinam, South America. This was, as Merian stated, " a long dreamed of journey to Suriname."(Foreword from Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam)
During the two years that she was there, she traveled around the colony studying and sketching the local flora and fauna, and she drew from direct observation of the insects which was not a common practice of the time, this allowed her to document much more than had been shown before. Also since her sole reason for her trip was scientific study her trip may have been one of the first travelers to "plan a journey rooted solely in science."(Reidell, Heidi (April 2008). "A Study of Metamorphosis". Americas. 60 (2): 28–35. Retrieved 10 August 2015. )
Because of her careful observations and documentation of the metamorphosis of the butterfly, she is considered by David Attenborough to be among the most significant contributors to the field of entomology. She was a leading entomologist of her time and she discovered many new facts about insect life through her studies.
It was also during her trip to Suriname that she spoke up for the mistreatment of the natives and the slaves by the Dutch.
The pursuit of her work in Suriname was an unusual endeavour, especially for a woman. In general, only men received royal or government funding to travel in the colonies to find new species of plants and animals, make collections and to work there, or to settle. Scientific expeditions at this period of time were not common, and Merian's unofficial, self-funded expedition raised many eyebrows. She succeeded, however, in discovering a whole range of previously unknown animals and plants in the interior of Surinam. Merian spent time studying and classifying her findings and described them in great detail. She not only described the insects she found, but also noted their habitat, habits and uses to indigenous people. Her classification of butterflies and moths is still relevant today.
here is some of the ways her work has influenced me ... BUGS!!!
a collaborative project/dress
with the student body that would be presented at the Dana Hall Fashion Show
|bugs I commissioned for a toy company a long time ago|
they were put on 'pogs'
|'lilith in blue ...' with accompanying paintings|
|detail of my installation 'this comes from within ...'|