Friday, January 4, 2008

Arthropod art.

I like animals. I like books. I like art. More or less in that order, if that makes sense. I have tons of books about animals (or so it would seem, having hauled them from home to home in an ever-increasing load), and before I was married almost everything hanging on my walls or painted on my coffee cups was zoological, and although now, a number of years and children into marriage, the artwork is a little more balanced toward landscapes and human things, etc., creatures are still a major motif. I thought about this when visiting friends this week. Almost everything hanging on their walls or propped up on their mantel was a picture of family. What, no animals? No non-humans?

I know I am "different." I should lie when people ask me what I do. No one knows how to respond to the z-word. "Oh, so you work in a zoo?" It's always an awkward, disconnected conversation.

They also don't know how to respond to this, a piece of art I snapped up on the spot from a freshly-minted student from Emily Carr. I have forgotten her last name, but her first name was Carly.

Yes, this imposing banner, or whatever it is, hanging at the landing of our staircase, is a reproduction of a scientific drawing of Limulus polyphemus, a horseshoe crab. It is ink on canvas, then cleverly stained and shellacked to look like it has been soaking in a bog for several hundred years.

I love horseshoe crabs. I became fascinated by their cast exoskeletons on a beach in New Jersey when I was a youngster. I liked their prehistoric form, and the puzzling variety of clattering appendages that were revealed when you flipped them over. They are arthropods, but chelicerates, not crustaceans. Their classification and other information can be found here and here.

The artist derived the images from drawings in an invertebrate zoology text book. Art is what you do with what you find, even in a dry college text book.

Tachypleus gigas, Palau Ubin, Singapore

The are four extant species of horseshoe crab. Limulus is north Atlantic; the others are Indo-Malayan, including Japan. Two of those are Tachypleus spp. The other is Carcinoscorpius rotundicaudata, an endangered species.

I found the dead one in the picture above on an island on the north side of Singapore. Despite its inanimate condition, I was very excited. The local zoologists (that z-word) were happy for me, because they understood how it is.


swamp4me said...

Don't worry, you aren't alone in your unusual tastes in art. Currently, on our walls you will find three photos of the millpond, one whimsical turtles on a log painting, a wetlands poster, a painting on wood of a great blue heron, the mandible of a hog, a huge shelf fungus from Maine, a shed snake skin...I could go on, but you get the idea. Art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder -- enjoy your horseshoe crab!

BerryBird said...

Love the arthropod art!

A Local Naturalist said...

Thanks Swampy and Berrybird for your kindred spiritness. I bet your homes are lovely.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

That is one seriously cool beastie!

I don't have zoological "artwork" on my walls; what I have are an entire corner, plus some extra shelf space dedicated to my "stuff"; bones, feathers, dried mushrooms, lichen, seaweed, boxes of dried bugs, a rattle-snake rattle,... And a bathroom full of shells. And a basket of dead weeds.

I wouldn't trade for "normal" stuff, ever.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Gotta chuckle about the reactions to zoo work. I experienced it countless times, and often preferred not to divulge my real profession. Love the artwork. A friend of mine picked up some beautiful zoological art in Indonesia, including a surreal praying mantis. Anyway, you are not alone, which is reassuring.

Anonymous said...

I love Horseshoe crabs too! The art you display is wonderful. I have a box frame with two small horseshoe crab shells encased within, and a photo of my daughter when she was 8 with a beloved horseshoe crab that we found at the beach at Cape Cod. I have been researching them and even went to beaches in Delaware and New Jersey last June during spawning season at full moon to see them come up on the beach to lay eggs. I recommend readers try this trip during May or June full moons for a thrilling sight. Thanks for posting your photos and words.