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March 6: Art Student Creates Rose Petal Installation Inspired by Science


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon Art Student Creates
Rose Petal Installation Inspired by Science    

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University School of Art senior Lisa Huyett has created a large-scale installation titled "S.E.M. Rose" (Scanning Electron Microscope Rose), a re-creation of the surface of a rose petal, at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. The artist rendered the magnified image of a rose petal using a scanning electron microscope while a student in the university's interdisciplinary Art and Biology course.     

SEM Rose PetalHuyett will be the museum's artist-in-residence during March. She will present her completed work at a closing reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., March 30 at the museum.   

"All of my work is inspired by nature and plant material. Patterns in nature give me inspiration for abstraction. It is a jumping-off point for my art, much of which is installation and site-specific," Huyett said. "I'm very interested in relating art to science. In this case, I am taking small, familiar material to make something large-scale."    

Made entirely of red pipe cleaners, "S.E.M. Rose" grew out of Huyett's experience using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in the Art and Biology course, taught by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art Patricia Maurides. Scanning electron microscopy uses a beam of electrons to reveal the nanostructures of material surfaces at up to one million times their normal size. Under the guidance of Joseph Suhan, electron microscopist at the Electron Microscope Facility in the university's Mellon College of Science, Huyett magnified a rose petal 500 times, revealing bristly, knob-like structures that make up the velvety appearance of the petal. The artist replicated these buds by creating modules out of pipe cleaners. Each module, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, is composed of 100 pipe cleaners.     

Piper Cleaner PetalsIn the course, an art studio-biology laboratory hybrid, students explore the fusion of art and biology and experiment creatively with scientific media.

"A multidisciplinary group of students has the opportunity to work together as they explore relationships between the fine arts and biological sciences," Maurides said. "They have the opportunity to use imaging technologies to create artworks that may range from animations and sculpture to artist books and performance works."     

Since October 2006, Huyett has worked with visitors of all ages who attend Saturday workshops at the Children's Museum to help craft the individual buds, which collectively resemble a large field of roses. Children as young as 3 have contributed to the sculpture, along with many older children, parents and grandparents. Huyett also taught several workshops with the Children's Museum's after-school YouthAlive! program for sixth- through eighth-graders, who completed one of the sculpture's large central modules.     

To date, Huyett has used 35,000 pipe cleaners. Darice, a craft supplies outlet, has donated 60,000 total pipe cleaners to the project, all of which Huyett intends to use. She will spend two more Saturday mornings at the museum interacting with students to craft the exhibit.

Huyett and the Children's Museum will offer the public an opportunity to add to the installation from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., March 24 and 31 at the museum. This opportunity is free with museum admission. Huyett will also teach an adult workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20. The cost is $10 and includes dinner, materials and professional development credit for certified teachers. Registration is available at the museum's Web site,

Following the closing reception at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Huyett will move her work to the FRAME Gallery, located at 5200 Forbes Avenue.

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is located at 10 Children's Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. Admission is $9 for adults and $8 for children. For more information, call 412-322-5058.    

For more information on the School Art, visit or contact Eric Sloss at 412-268-5765 or

[Using scanning electron microscopy, Huyett magnified a rose petal 500 times (top) revealing bristly, knob-like structures that make up the velvety appearance of the petal. The artist replicated these buds by creating modules out of pipe cleaners.]