Written by Peggy Fisherkeller, curator of geology at the Indiana State Museum
Coccolithophores are marine planktonic organisms that secrete calcareous plates, called coccoliths, around a single cell. They are so tiny they are best viewed with a scanning electron microscope (an SEM). That’s one of the reasons that a large red version hanging from the ceiling in the Great Hall of the Indiana State Museum was so amusing to me. Another reason for my amusement? I had a fair amount of certainty the artist didn’t know he was creating a pretty good replica of an obscure micro-organism. But that’s the great thing about art – we interpret different meanings based on our personal experiences.
Not plants and not animals, coccolithophores are algae, and obtain their energy through photosynthesis. They are partially responsible for chalk deposits all over the world and have been important parts of the oceans since dinosaurs have walked around. Consequently, that means that we don’t find any here, because oceans haven’t covered Indiana for over 300 million years. However, coccolithophores are very important to modern climate and contribute greatly to marine health. Follow this offsite link to learn more and see some pictures.
The piece, called “Urban Geometry” by artist Greg Hull, is currently installed as part of the exhibit, Making it in the Midwest: Artists Who Chose to Stay. Hull is an associate professor of 3-dimensional design and sculpture at the Herron School of Art and Design.