Sea Fan archive
Thursday 4 July 2013
Dr Mark Doolittle draws on a long career in biomedical research to express the dynamic of growth and symmetry found in cells and tissues
Dr Mark Doolittle is a carver greatly influenced by biology, having been involved in biomedical research for over 25 years. "I try to express the dynamic form of growth and symmetry encountered in cells and tissues, as well as in whole organisms throughout the natural world. Without attempting to accurately portray biological structures, I use organic shapes and abstract forms, like holes and fissures, to achieve the perception of biological growth in my artwork," he says. "Wood seems a natural choice of medium, as it is derived from the processes of biological growth that is the foundation of my artistic style."
Each piece is conceived and executed using domestic and exotic hardwoods and burls from around the world. Although his style involves intricate carvings and texturing involving many hours of bench work, he never employs laser or CNC machinery; rather, each piece is crafted using rotary burrs and bits as well as hand tools, such as rasps and chisels. Dr Doolittle is now a full time artist, with a studio located in Joshua Tree, California.
'Sea Fan' is comprised of three types of wood; the fan is basswood (Tilia americana) that encircles a piece of amboyna (Pterocarpus indices) burl from Indonesia, with a stand of the African wood bubinga (Guibourita demeusei). The basswood and amboyna burl were glued together and then carved as a unit. The five cup-like structures carved into the amboyna burl contain inlayed fossil ammonites from Morocco and Madagascar that are about 150 million years old. Ammonites are extinct marine organisms 'cephalopods' - that are related to the chambered nautilus of today. Like much of Dr Doolittle's artwork, 'Sea Fan' is meant to express, in an abstract manner, the dynamic, organic structures that arise by the millions of microscopic organisms like coral polyps that build such magnificent structures as coral reefs. The fossil ammonites remind us of the ancient heritage of life on earth. 'Sea Fan' is now housed in the art collection of Darlene and John Proud. To see more of these fantastic pieces, visit his website.
(PHOTOGRAPH BY BERNARD WOLF)