30 November 2014

"Under the Microscope"

As children, we aren't curious about the lives of our parents, certainly not about their lives before we were born. As adults, we may never find out about their past. This is what almost happened to Mary Pritchard in regard to her mother, Olive Ackroyd. 

But through inheriting her mother's microscope, and with the help of family photos and letters,  Mary has reconstructed her mother's life as a scientist, at a time when girls generally didn't go into science careers - and in any case, gave up their careers upon marriage. Mary - a photographer and ceramicist - gathered together all her mother's original published scientific papers, photo albums, letters and drawings, and along with her own work based on the microscope slides, put them on show in a carefully reconstructed environment.

"Olive Elizabeth Aykroyd was born in Dublin, Ireland over a 100 years ago and was exceptional in many ways. She went to Trinity College Dublin in the 1930's and obtained a PhD in Zoology at a time when it was unusual for women to pursue a scientific career. Her research contributed to the expansion of the subject at that time. However, after she married and had a family she did not return to her research. 

"Mary has found her mother's original laboratory slides from the 1930s a rich source of inspiration and for this exhibition she has re-interpreted them and re-presented them in a variety of ways - using both old and new technology. From cyanotypes (a very early form of photography) to reprinting the slides of insect larva onto huge pieces of tracing paper, to manipulating the images in Photoshop to produce a homage to Andy Warhol, to decorating ceramic tiles with the slide images, Mary has breathed new life into these tiny, old objects, which have a strange beauty of their own.

"In terms of work inspired by the archive, Mary has been using her camera as a kind of microscope focusing in on details of plants to magnify them and appreciate their beauty and complexity. Mary inherited a love of nature, an interest in science and her artistic side from her mother." (via)

Here is a walk-through of the historical part of the exhibition, a re-creation of a life -

See the work inspired by the archive at marypritchard.net. The exhibition was held at Artisan80, Willesden, 4-22 November.

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