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ARTSCI 5194 Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Group Studies

Harvesting Color: the art and science of plant/human relationships

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Marigold art project protocol


The goal is to create a collaborative art project to present to the public a new idea, based on our artistic and scientific investigations into human/plant interrelationships. As a springboard, we will begin with the specific example of marigolds and our own experiences of extracting compounds, conducting scientific experiments and asking artistic questions about them. Students will work on individual concept development and then coalesce ideas into one to three larger group projects, to be presented at the final Art and Tech exhibition. Sculptures, drawings, installations, videos, animations and/or performances will all be considered.



a.   Rainforests of Domestication, Chapter 3 of Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution, by George Gessert.

b.   Culture: Artists in the lab, by Martin Kemp (log into the OSU library for access)



a.  BBC How to Grow a Planet, Life from Light.

b.   Michael Pollan: A plant’s-eye view Ted Talk


Artist inspirations:

Mark Dion

Wolfgang Laib

George Gessert

Angelo Vemeulen

Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison

Fritz Haeg

Frances Whitehead

Related Art Projects

Golden Spider Silk, by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley
Natural History of the Enigma, by Eduardo Kac

Common Flowers / Flower Commons, by Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel

Interactive Plant Growing, by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau

Growth Assembly, by Sacha Pohflepp and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.


Marigold flowers, dry

Marigold flowers, fresh

Yellow/gold objects

Extracted dye


More to be determined



1.   Keep a field notebook with drawings, reflections, and notes as a way to document your observations and interests and to make connections between disparate elements. Ideally, you will add to this every day - at a minimum 4 times per week. Use it regularly and refer to it often as you complete the following steps during the term of this course.

a.  Get one you know you will keep with you. Will you really carry that fat sketchbook?

b. Date your entries! Your ideas might become patents - you never know.

c.   Use it like a scrapbook, sketch, tape things in, photos, sample materials, etc.

d.   Write for yourself, but know that other may see it. Including your future self.


2.   River of Gold exercise to consider color, materiality, aggregates, organizing principles, and taxonomy

a.   Bring 5 yellow/gold objects from home for the temporary installation. 

b.   Together we will arrange/rearrange the objects and ask questions and make attempt to reveal relationships between the variety of objects.

c.    How to organize / taxonomize?

d.   Where do the various colors come from? 

e.   In small groups, students photograph and/or draw parts of the resulting installation to create new connections and relationships inspired by the River of Gold installation we have constructed.


3.   Creative process diagramming

a.   Discuss Creative Process Diagram handout as an outlining tool for interdisciplinary artmaking.

b.   Map your ideas and processes onto it. Make more than one copy of the diagram so you can freely rework the diagram to suit your own process of idea generation and artmaking and so you can try out different ideas with the map.

c.    Distill it down to one idea and fill in as much detail as you can.

d.   Each student presents their mapped out concept to the class as a possible project that could be pursued as a larger group project

e.   Class discusses connections between ideas and 1 to 3 groups form based on interests.


4.   Questions and speculations

a.   Revisit the roots section of the Creative Process Diagram, this time fleshing it out based on your experiences with the lab processes.

b.   Define and write out the artistic problem/question/hypothesis as you personally see it.

c.    In class students present their fleshed out maps and describe the artistic problems they are interested in working on.


5.   What to make?

a.   Discuss Creative Conceptual Strategies handout and look at artist examples

b.   Revisit the “Make what?” section of the Creative Process Diagram, and fill it in with your own ideas about what to make.

c.    Present your ideas in class

d.   Decide as a class on the 1 to 3 group projects that will be made.


6.   How to do it?

a.   Discuss as a group, the practical considerations such as, technical needs, time constraints, materials, tools, equipment, budget, exhibition space and audience.

b.   Determine what new experiments and directed learning must take place and create a plan to achieve these.

·      Are there experts on campus we can consult with?

·      What materials and techniques should we be playing/experimenting with?

·      What existing research can guide us?

·      What should we be reading and viewing?

·      Who in the group will be charged with which tasks?


7.   Creating/making commences

a.   Groups report on their experiments and what they have learned

b.   A class discussion and decision about what will be made for the show

c.    A plan and timeline of activities is developed, based on the deadline of the exhibition

·      Map out the milestones

·      Decide how to divide the making into manageable tasks for individuals and/or smaller groups

·      Determine who is in charge of what

·      Be prepared to present progress at all stages


8.   Critique and exhibition of completed work

a.   Working groups report on their perceived successes and failures in the completed artwork.

b.   Individuals respond and reflect. How has this impacted you or stories about others who have experienced the work? 

c.    Class discussion about where this could go next? New ideas or avenues that have been opened and thoughts about how to document and present the work beyond the exhibition.



Iris Meier | Department of Molecular Genetics | The Ohio State University

Amy Youngs | Art & Technology | Department of Art | The Ohio State University