The Mica Hypothesis, artist book 2009

The Mica Hypothesis, artist book, 2009

Handbound unique artist book, 5 hand-split mica panels, inkjet on mica paper, original painted central panel (acrylic). Original poetry and art © Maureen Piggins 2009. Measurements: Closed: 3”w x 4”h x 0.5”d. Opens to five double-sided panels (central panel with four satellite panels). Features structural formulas (Haworth projections) of the four chemical variants of ribonucleic acid (RNA). Conceived for curated exhibition Island, Doverodde Book Festival, Hyrup Thy, Denmark.

ARTIST STATEMENT: The Mica Hypothesis refers to the origin of life theory (of the same name) developed by scientist Helen Hansma of the National Science Foundation. The theory proposes that the first biomolecules reorganized into cells – the first life – within layers of mica in the prebiotic soup of ancient oceans, under conditions ripe for Darwinian evolution (1).

Akilia Island, Greenland, has been purported to hold evidence of this earliest life on Earth – dated at 3.85 billion years old (in the Hadean eon) (2). The area also contains large amounts of mica, supporting Hansma’s theory that life may have originated in this region (2).

Working from these core ideas of origin, material, and evolution, I have integrated painting, poetry and science in a 5-panel format which itself refers to Hansma’s theory: hand-split mica panels contain the four chemical variants of RNA (one of the first biomolecules) and all content is printed on mica paper and housed between layers of mica. The significance of using 5 panels refers to the 5-carbon sugar, ribose, in each RNA nucleotide; carbon is the basis for all life on Earth. The “blind watchmaker” of the poem is a nod to evolutionary biologist and ethologist, Richard Dawkins, and his secular argument against William Paley’s creationist view of life (3).

As each double-sided panel opens to reveal the next, glimpses of chemical structuremixwith poetic meaning to arrive at an open view of the work, with the painting as the final, central panel – evoking chemical, temporal and existential linkages that inform an understanding of our origins.

Footnotes: (1) http://www.nsf.gov/news/newssumm.jsp?cntnid=110802 (2) http://www.usnews.com/articles/science/environment/2007/12/06/was-there-a-sandwich-with-that-primordial-soup.html (3) Dawkins, Richard (1996) [1986]. The BlindWatchmaker. New York:W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

The Mica Hypothesis, artist book, 2009 | 2010 | Artist Books | Comments (1)


1 comment en “The Mica Hypothesis, artist book, 2009”

  1. Helen Greenwood Hansma says:


    Thanks! That’s great. It looks like a lovely book.



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