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Why Geology and Art?


The role of geology in art is mercurial, and is somehow mysterious.
Indeed geology and art are inextricably bound together. The science and art of geology have developed in concert and they are still
interdependent ways to describe nature.
A significant part of my research is dedicated to the relationship between geology and art, as exemplified by my recent book "Geology in Art", which is the first contribution to document comprehensively geologic art (see also my website

Why Geology and Art? The answer is in History.
Indeed my research revealed that the science of geology emerged from the cultural phenomena that happened in the Renaissance, with particular regard to the advancements in arts. Since Leonardo times, art has been a passionate way to express geology. In fact, as evidenced by numerous examples of "Geologic Art", the artistic language presents geology with a warm and emotional look. As regards "Geologic Art", particularly worth of note are Visual Arts and Leonardo is one of the most representative artists dealing with geology. Leonardo correctly represented layers and folds but he was not the only Naturalist to cover Earth Sciences: fossils and minerals were widely described and depicted by Gesner, Agricola and Aldrovandi. Notwithstanding the importance of the Naturalists,geology and art are connected since Paleolithic while vertebrate fossils are represented by Mesopotamic and Greek-Roman cultures.

Right: "Geodelica Trilogy"/ "Geodelia" is a video-art installation I created for a music festival. Some visuals bring "petrographic thin sectioning" to Video Art. A thin sliver of rock is cut from the sample with a diamond saw, mounted on a glass slide and then smoothed using progressively finer abrasive grit until the sample is only 0.03 mm thick. As different minerals have different optical properties, each mineral shows different colours and aestethics. A nice way to express Geology with Art!

In more recent times, Earth Scientists themselves inspired works of art: Spitzberg's "geologist" is an actual Romantic masterpiece. The geologists of the 18th-19th century were frequently pictured (i.e. Bone Wars watercolours) and their discovers inspired outstanding lithographies, like the primaeval landscapes of Riou and Harder.
The career of many palaeontologists started with the evocative paintings of Morave砡nd Burian, pillars of contemporary "Geologic Art", which nowadays is very diversified: we have visionary sights (i.e. Troll, McClabby), realistic ones (i.e. Bakker, Martin, Carr) and even humoristic approaches. In fact the geologist and artist Ortolani is the author of the character "RatMan", nowadays ruling the italian comic scenes.
Geological Art is not only Visual Art: many musicians took inspiration from geology, covering very assorted genres, going from blues (i.e. "Devonian Blues" by Troll) and classic ("Burgess Shale" by Steiger) to heavy metal ("Trilobyte" by Mastodon). Fossils shape and stratigraphic sequences has been sonified by Ekdale and Tripp.
The mentioned examples shows how Art can communicate appealingly geology: therefore I am supporting visual and audio elements for promoting geology. Walking along the line of continuity between science and art is an emotional way to express geology!

Text adapted from Baucon "Tracemaker" A., Neto de Carvalho C. 2007. Expressing Geology by Art: from Leonardo to Geopark Naturtejo merchandising. Proceedings of the 3rd International UNESCO conference on Geoparks, Osnabr뼢r />

Left: Frames from my video "You can't eat a trilobite": a different way to look to paleontology!

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