Spiral of Life Mural Series

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Darwin2009: Spiral of Life
"Spiral of Life III: Animal Evolution"
at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

The Spiral of Life Mural Series explores a new symbol for evolution that emphasizes the common origin of all living things. The mural series includes:

Spiral of Life images
Details for "Spiral of Life I: From Darwin to Today", the first mural of the series, traces the current understanding of evolution to Darwin's notes.

Spiral of Life I: From Darwin to Today

Installed at the Carnegie Science Center
App. 4ft x 4 ft
February 2009
Thanks to Azur Cherin, Mike Hennessy and whole team at the Carnegie Science Center.
Located on the 4th floor, next to "Ask Darwin"

Spiral of Life II: Co-Evolution of Plants and Animals

Installed at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh PA
30 x 40in
April -August 2009
Thanks to Laura Micco, Sarah Presogna, Margie Radebaugh and Kelliann Walsh
Located in the Gallery

Spiral of Life III: Animal Evolution

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquariums
18 ft x 10 ft
July 2009
Education advisor Dave Mintz
Thanks to
Connie George, Tracy Gray, Jennifer Hicks, Mark Reardon, Margie Marks and Kevin O'Connell
Located in the Kid's Kingdom, Worlds of Discovery building

Spiral of Life images
"Spiral of Life II: Plant and Animal Co-Evolution" at Phipps Conservatory.

Spiral of Life IV: DNA and Evolution

App. 22x 24 in
Developed for DNA Day 2009
Exhibited at all Darwin2009 partner institutions

Spiral of Life V: Bird Evolution

To be installed at the National Aviary, Pittsburgh PA
App. 7 ft x 6 ft
July 2009
Thanks to Erin Estell, Todd Kazner, Steve Sarro, Caitlin Stone
Thanks to the advice of Matt Lamanna, Brad Livezey

Spiral of Life VI: Life Stories

To be installed at the Children's Museum, Pittsburgh PA (TBD)
Thanks to Angela Seals, Lois Winslow, Penny Lodge

Darwin2009: Spiral of Life
"Spiral of Life V: Dinosaur Evolution"is installed at the National Aviary.
Evolutionary Art and Darwin: Handouts for Spiral of Life
All murals were accompanied by hand-outs or activities that helped visitors discover the Spirals.
Darwin: Evolutionary art: the tree of life re-invented as a spiral
Detail of "Spiral of Life V: Bird Evolution:" see how birds came about in the context of the evolution of all living things.

What is the Spiral of Life?

The Spiral of Life: All living things are connected by evolution.

Darwin's tree
First depiction of a phylogenetic tree-like diagram, in Charles Darwin's notes (1837).

Spiral of Life
Spiral of Life concept art, emphasizing the common origin and equality of all of Life .

Charles Darwin became famous for his realization that all species arise from a common ancestor; changing slowly overtime through the process he called natural selection. So, all of Life is connected by evolution. In one of Darwin’s notebooks (see left), we can find the first known depiction of a diagram that translates evolutionary relationships. This type of diagram is still used today, and Darwin’s science is the basis of modern evolutionary biology.

As revolutionary as this picture of life is, limitations emerged over time.  As the idea coalesced into a popular icon, misconceptions abound including that evolution is a linear process that culminated in Humans, and then stopped.

The Spiral of Life represents a new understanding of evolution, emphasizing the common origin, and the equality of all livings things. The organic shape of the spiral also connotes a sense of Life that is bigger than one animal or cell, as a whole. Life is an exploratory force, constantly modifying itself to adapt to its changing environment. The spiral also indicates time using tree-ring-like rings, and its branches continue past the “today” line, reminding us that evolution is an on-going process.This image also reminds us that as much as life changes to meet the environment life, including humans, change the environment, too.

The research behind this project was a daunting task because much of this evolutionary and taxonomic information is the subject of current molecular DNA research, the field very dynamic. Data compilation was conducted by Duquesne undergraduate students Allison Pogue and Brinley Kantorsky.  The vision for consolidating the science and art is the fine work of art director Joana Ricou.

The Spiral of Life mural series will encompass the Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquariums, the National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory, and the Children’s Museum. Each mural will explore a unique angle on the evolution of Life.

Spiral of Life: Co-Evolution of Plants and AnimalsDetail for "Spiral of Life II: Co-Evolution of Plants and Animals". The Tui bird co-evolves with a kind of red mitlestoe that has explosive flowers.



Executive Producer - John A. Pollock

Art Director and Lead Art - Joana Ricou

Science Research - Brinley Kantorski and Allison Pogue

Additional Art - Robert Hoggard

Sources for Spiral of Life project





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