Not exactly certain how to begin the art part of the art and science Public Engagement Project with Maria Duque (remember we’re in a pandemic), I decide to send an introduction email to the group of scientists she’s gathered.
I’m excited when the first response comes in from → Ana Alastruey-Izquierdo, who is from the Mycology Reference Laboratory of Spain (Madrid). She works in the diagnosis, treatment and management of fungal infections and resistance.
She sends some information and explains other things I’ve asked for might not be available immediately (website maintenance), and she also tells me other info is in Spanish. I should have expected the latter. I smile because for me reading science research is challenging to understand in English and could probably be even more complicated to read and understand, in Spanish. It’s fine, if necessary, we can talk.
I open up images she sends…and oh!!!!
How can fungus and mold have such beautiful form? Shouldn’t I have an aversion to it? Did I mention Ana researches Aspergillus?
Aspergillus acquired its name from the fact that its structure resembles an aspergillum (cool word I recall from Catholic school days). The small brush (aka liturgical implement) used by a priest to sprinkle holy water is called an aspergillum and derives from the Latin verb aspergere, which means to sprinkle or spray.
Does Aspergillius actually spray…anything? Does it produce fungi spores that release into the atmosphere? Or is the name only related to its form/shape? (And can I really refer to it as a bug? – because we’ve been referring to the microbes and worms as bugs and this feels more like plant.)
I’m curious about the structure of these pathogenic, opportunistic organism (found indoors and outdoors). In particular I am drawn to the long branching filamentous extensions. What is hyphae? Hypha(e), from the greek, meaning web are thread-like to my eyes. I studied this fungus once before; I have so much more to learn.
The excitement to draw the wonderful (playful) details I see in the various hi-resolution images…well, it sends me to the art store. I start to consider variety (something different) in materials, shapes and sizes.
I look at paper, canvas and panels and none of it pulls at my attention. On the drive home, I decide I want a flat, rich surfaced, circular form. My husband offers to help, we take a trip to the hardware store, and out come the power tools. As the weekend draws to a close, I have circular panels in various sizes, to paint.
Final note (and one of the reasons for the education):
The most important part of my research, says Ana, is that antifungal resistance rates are increasing so this can be a problem in the near future as it is with bacteria.
There are not many antifungal drugs available to treat these infections and the rise of drug resistance in the last years is very worriesome.
Come back for more on the work of Ana Alastruey-Izquierdo.
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