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Spiders!

Journal

News from Dowd House Studios: places to find our pottery, exhibitions, classes & workshops, new forms and exciting projects.

Spiders!

Jenny Dowd

Last weekend I participated in a unique project: Spiders! Interconnectedness, Innovation and Stewardship. Organized by Sarah Kariko, Research Director of Gossamer Labs, this project brought together a team of artists and scientists with the mission to explore the biodiversity of spiders found in Grand Teton National Park.

The setting for this exhibition was the Berol Lodge at the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. The pop-up exhibition was kicked off last weekend with a talk at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY as well as an opening reception on August 21st. While I helped with some of the installation, I ended up missing the reception, so unfortunately I did not take photographs of the exhibition. 

These tiny sculptures were my contribution to the exhibition. I took inspiration from the daily lives of spiders:

Crab Spiders hang out on bright yellow clumps of Arrowleaf Balsamroot while they watch for prey:

This detail of a layered velum drawing is my representation of the afternoon activities of orb-weaving spiders as they repair and rebuild webs. Then in the evening, between hunting and repairing webs, I imagine that a spider would admire her collection of silk wrapped prey- reminiscing over large captures and particularly tasty meals.

DG House created a painting of the Crab Spider sunning itself on the Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Chef Oscar Ortega fabricated a beautiful solid chocolate spider sculpture!

I learned a lot from this project, from the daily spider activities that inspired my sculptures, to venom research and spider silk synthesis innovation. I even had the opportunity to see a recently discovered spider in person.

The Mason Spider is currently being studied, yesterday I met up with Sarah Kariko to see Maggie Raboin's research site. After the Mason Spider attaches her egg sac of spiderlings to a rock, she builds a mound of objects around it: pebbles, grass stalks, seeds, flower petals... These tiny mounds (1 - 2 inches) blend right in with their surroundings and are beautifully built. As an artist who takes inspiration from collected objects, I found this fascinating! (Look closely in the center image for a tiny snail shell)

This project has only just begun, in 2017 the exhibition will travel to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. I hope to have the opportunity to see these artists and scientists again, who knows where this inspiration will lead!