“Merian,” number 6 in The Grand Armada series of the Inktopodes. Original: watercolor ink, India ink, gouache, and iridescent calligraphy ink on 8″ x 10″ watercolor paper. Scanned reproduction: in digitally colored frame.

Merian is inspired by late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century illustrator and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, as well as her watercolor works depicting pineapples and attendant insects, especially “Ripe Pineapple with Dido Longwing Butterfly” and “Pineapple with Cockroaches,” both printed in Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Merian appears as an inverted pineapple with the body of the pineapple making up her mantle and the fruit leaves transformed into her arms. The colors of Merian are rich and vibrant, more so when the original is viewed, since some of the color is dulled during reproduction. The natural vibrancy of the Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor inks—rich gamboge that glows against Hansa yellow medium and brilliant sap green—is a wonderful background for the India ink maps drawn upon them.

The inked “boxes” on the mantle are inspired by a map of Berlin circa 1900. The patterns on the arms are reminiscent of the contour lines of topographic maps, especially of those representing peaks of the Cascade Mountains. The orange gouache eyes simulate the caterpillars that climb up the sides of the pineapple in Merian’s painting.

“Merian” appears in the Strange Gliding Things show by Troy Kehm-Goins, which is on display at Puyallup Valley Dental Care during April, May, and June 2019.

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