Thursday, 12 January 2017

Using hemp fibers in anatomical sculpture

It’s always good to try new things.  This week I’ve been experimenting with using hemp fibers in sculpture.  I wanted something fibrous, and hemp string turned out to be ideal.

This is another episode in my long-running fascination with things that look abstract but aren’t (for another example, see here).  It’s the inside of a human eyeball, as seen under an electron microscope.  The round thing in the middle is the point at which the optic nerve enters the eye.  This is called the lamina cribrosa.  In reality it's about 4mm in diameter, and it's like a little sponge with nerve fibers growing through the holes.  The two large holes in the center allow a vein and an artery to enter the eye.  The lamina cribrosa is surrounded by a membrane.  Note that you cannot see the rod and cone cells, because they are underneath the membrane.  Human eyes are inside out; light has to pass through a membrane layer before it can be picked up by the rod and cone cells.

That's not an optical illusion, the whole thing is slightly concave.  It curves upward at the corners because it represents the back of an eye, as seen from the inside.

The brown parts are hemp fibers incorporated into the membrane around the lamina cribrosa, which is made from thin strips of paper rolled into small cylinders and glued together to mimic the structure of the real thing.

Lamina cribrosa, halfway through construction.

For reference, these are pictures of the real thing, as seen through an electron microscope.

Image found here.

Image found here.

You can see the tissue is very fibrous, and so I needed a fibrous sculpting material to represent it.  The hemp fiber works well and creates an interesting variety of textures.  When the sculpture is painted the hemp will be the same colour as the rest of the membrane, which will highlight the differences in texture.