Written by Sameera Mokkarala, reviewed by John Thomason
As many of us have noted on our strolls through the grocery store health food aisles, quinoa has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity over the last several years. Formerly “little more than a curiosity” outside of South America, quinoa is now in high demand in wealthy western countries, popular among foodies and those seeking alternative protein sources.
Any article on the grain (as well as most product descriptions) will tell you that despite being new to the global north, quinoa has been a known entity in Andean nations for thousands of years. Prior to its arrival on the international stage, quinoa was eaten mainly by farmers and people living in rural areas. Rising international demand for and consumption of quinoa, however, has brought significant changes to the South American countries that produce it.
Proponents will tell you that quinoa farming is responsible for as much as a seven-fold increase of the Bolivian average household income; that cultivation of quinoa falls mostly to small-scale farmers, rather than taking place on big plantations; and that the boom of the quinoa industry has resulted in the creation of local jobs, thus reducing the incentive to engage in migrant labor. For South Americans, quinoa cultivation is a promising and quickly-growing industry. For North American and European consumers of quinoa, it is a tasty, low-fat, gluten-free protein source. And ethical, to boot!
Inside Out: The Art of Vesna Jovanovic
The art of science is in full bloom in the multimedia drawings of Vesna Jovanovic. Jovanovic, a visual artist based in Chicago, creates mysterious and complex images in which human organs, plants, and other organic shapes emerge out of abstract inky pools. Invoking the phenomenon of pareidolia, or the perception of meaningful forms from random stimuli (think Rorschach blots), Jovanovic typically begins her drawings by spilling ink on various 2-D media, including paper and Yupo (a polypropylene-based paper). In response to the shapes created by the ink, she draws in new elements to create a detailed and cohesive composition: cilia-like hairs sprout from shadowy watermarks; intestine-like tubes snake around a rivulet of ink; dividing cells blossom out of blotchy, reddish stains.
Overall, Jovanovic’s work reflects her interest in the broader question of what it means to have a body in an age of dizzying technological advancement and scientific discovery. Her work is a striking montage of the physical and the ephemeral: far from traditional medical illustration, Jovanovic’s compositions are thoughtful and poetic reflections on our relationship with nature and the human form.
Given her background in both visual art and chemistry, Jovanovic’s fascination with the intersection of art and science seems a natural fit. In addition to informing her drawings, her interest in science has tinged other aspects of her work, including her photography and ceramics practices. Vesna Jovanovic is currently completing a residency at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. To see more of her work, go to her website , and her fascinating blog, Traces.
- Suzanne Hood