CAMBRIDGE, MA—The artist John Sabraw was looking for inspiration when he found it in an unlikely place—a biology lab. When he learned that scientists at Draper and MIT had found a way to grow plant materials without soil or sunlight, he needed to know more.
Ashley Beckwith, a Draper Scholar and Ph.D. candidate at MIT, described the process of growing wood-like plant structures in the Journal of Cleaner Production. When Sabraw asked for materials to use in his painting, Beckwith was eager to help.
Look closely at his “Monterey Mycorrhizal” and you will see water-based paint made from ground plant materials generated in the lab. In effect, Sabraw used tree-sourced materials without harming any trees.
The 60x60 inch painting, on a honeycomb aluminum panel, shows a section of the California coast in vibrant colors. The darker green sections are current forested areas, the lighter green areas at the top of the painting and bottom are the historical native habitats of the pinus radiata (a type of pine tree) while the very lightest greens are the current habitats around Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Ano Nuevo at the top.
“I was fascinated by the research the scientists were doing with lab-grown plant fibers and the future role they may play in a more sustainable future,” says Sabraw, an artist, professor and area chair of Painting and Drawing at Ohio University’s School of Art and Design. According to his website, Sabraw’s art reveals the “fragile connection” between technology, nature and humans.
“Monterey Mycorrhizal” is a play on the symbiotic relationship between art and science spurring innovation and the beneficial symbiotic fungi networks that support the pinus radiata forests, Sabraw added.
Since 1973, the Draper Scholars Program (formerly Draper Fellows Program) has supported over 1,000 graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and the sciences. Draper Scholar Alumni are from both civilian and military backgrounds and excel worldwide in the technical, corporate, government, academic and entrepreneurship sectors.