ANN ARBOR – A colorful new display wrapped around the glass exterior of the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History is an art installation by Jim Cogswell titled “Unseen Worlds.”
The mural explores the world of microorganisms and has been in the making for more than three years.
Cogswell, a professor at U-M’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, said the concept of the project was to reflect on the exterior of the building what happens inside its walls.
“The Biological Sciences Building was designed to represent science, but from the outside you may not know that,” Cogswell said in a release. “My job was to put the science on the exterior.”
Over the last several years, Cogswell created ink paintings based on images from scientific research of more than 350 microorganisms. He worked with several faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology, cell and developmental biology, at the U-M Biological Station and in internal medicine and physics.
He also enlisted U-M Stamps School students to help transfer the paintings to a digital format and fabricate them onto machine-cut vinyl film.
The mural, which measures 1,700 square feet, was patched together from different rolls of color onto the museum’s windows. Depending on weather conditions on any given day, the artwork changes based on the intensity of outdoor light due to varying degrees of transparency.
🔬Jim Cogswell’s new #art exhibit ‘Unseen Worlds’ reframes the teeming world of microorganisms, linking #art and natural #science through a contemporary approach to architectural ornamentation. This installation will remain on the windows of #UMMNH through 2023.— University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (@UMMNH) November 29, 2021
“Our hope is that visitors will be drawn to these delightful, human-scale microorganisms and want to discover how these unseen elements impact our world,” museum director Amy Harris said in a statement. “This installation serves as an invitation to discovery.”
Three students played critical roles in all phases of the project, and include Stamps students Sky Christoph and Kai Hamill and LSA student Beverly Fu.
The exhibit will be on view through 2023.