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Project Case Study: Stomata Slides

Elizabeth Whalley, Visiting Assistant Professor

Stomata: n. (def) The stomata are 3-cell groups on the underside ofleaves which take in carbon dioxide and allow water and free oxygen to escape. They are crucial for controlling carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Artist and professor in the Pratt fine arts dept, Elizabeth Whalley created her project “stomata slides” as a way to bring a heightened awareness of the importance
of plants around us—namely how they provide the air we breathe.

“Stomata slides” is an interactive installation with slide projection of magnified leaf stomatas and a workstation where participants can create their own stomata slides. The slides, at magnifications between 100 and 400x obtained with a confocal
microscope, reveal leaf structures such as veins, trichomes and stomata.

To create this analog projected slide show Ms. Whalley adapted an imaging technique used by botanists to make microscope slides of stomata using the simple household items of transparent tape and nail polish, an efficient, low-tech and accurate method to image the stomata.

Visitors to the exhibit were invited to make their own slides, allowing them to become a part of the artwork. They picked a leaf from a variety of plants on display and coated it with nail polish. While waiting for the nail polish to dry they could watch the slide show through the window in the box.

Ms. Whalley also provided information about the crucial environmental role of stomata in the slides. She used text printed on acetate, original drawings, and annotated photographic slides made from digital images taken through a

The exploration of the visual phenomena of leaves just out of range of the unaided eye with a simple, non-photographic method gave participants a heightened, exciting awareness of the complexity and significance of the leaves’ beauty and function.

–Elizabeth Whalley

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