About a month ago I received a copy of Cornelia Hesse-Honegger’s latest publication through the post from herself – without any note? ( I curated her work in Ireland in 2005). Being busy with other things, it suddenly occurred to me a week later that what she had sent was very significant publication in her long career. It was a reprint of a peer-reveiwed, published paper in a science Journal, the Journal of Chemistry and Biodiversity! ‘Malformationof True Bug (Heteroptera): a Phenotype Field Study on the Possible Influence of Artificial Low-Level Radioactivity, Chemistry & Biodiversity:2008 Vol 5 (4) 499-539.
Cornelia’s art science work has been collected and published in other ways over several decades but mainly in art publications or in newspapers. Her first paintings caused a sensation in Europe, not long after Chernobyl, where her work appeared to strongly indicate widespread evidence of deformations in insects in areas that scientists had claimed were not affected by nuclear fallout. Her continued painstaking work and in-depth reasearch studies has highlighted low level radiation causing similar affects in the vicinity of many other nuclear power plants in Europe and the US. While her work was appreciated in art circles (and particularly the recent interest in art & science), her work being widely recognised by the scientific establishment has been difficult and slow to realise. Although she worked as a professional scientific illustrator, for 25 years for scientists inducing radiation damage into insects, the artistry in her approach outside conventional scientific method was no doubt hard to classify.
I wrote about Cornelia’s work for my art college thesis, Science and the Eclipse of the Earth in 2000 (reprinted in Circa 2001), and in 2005 was delighted, as my only time as a curator (for Carlow’s Visualise Program), to be able to invite Cornelia to exhibit her work in Carlow, Ireland. Cornelia was enthusiastic to share her work and was delighted not only to exhibit and talk about her work, but also generously gave a 2 day workshop on her painting techniques to local artists. In her own words ‘we understand our world by the pictures we make of it’. Congratualations Cornelia on this important work.
To see more of Cornelia’s work goto www.wissenskunst.ch