Antarctica

This piece is based on an image of a meteorite found by the US Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program in 2003. Meteorites can be more easily found in Antarctica due to the contrasting dark color on the ice, and relative lack of soil or biogenic activity to cause burial. Any samples found during these surveys are sent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Scientists study them by taking a very thin slice (a “thin section”) and shining polarized light through it under a microscope. This causes the different grains to light up in different colors, providing information on the mineral composition. Some types of meteorites have many bright colors like this one, while others have like this are more dull. A layer is cut out of each color paper such that the different colored grains show through from the top when stacked together. The Antarctic continent outlines the top.

This piece was challenging to make due to the image processes required. First I had to trace each grain in the image to make a smoother picture using only a discrete set up colors. Figuring out how to layer these colors in order to cut properly took several hours. It’s really hard to wrap your brain around because when cutting, you cut the grain shapes out of the paper such that it’s the color beneath that actually shows through. This means each layer merging the shapes being cut, while simultaneously avoiding creating islands, which would require you to glue loose pieces of grains together. On the upside, since the shapes were simple the cutting part of the process went pretty quickly.

Selecting paper is simultaneously one of the most fun and most frustrating parts of the process. It can be hard to match the colors you envision in your head or on a screen. This piece ended up with 22 total colors, two of which were split into two layers each to accommodate ordering. I’ve never done one with so many different colors before! I really love how it turned out. It has kind of a cheesy 90’s vibe to it, and a lot of interesting structure.