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MSU employee transforms lifetime into art installation

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April 8, 2016

Drawing was originally a quiet hobby for Peter Carrington. And now more than 40 years later, his collection of science illustrations are on display for everyone.

The exhibit “Art in Science: Putting Your Passion to Work” will be featured at Brody Hall throughout April. It encompasses some of Carrington’s favorite works from his extensive career in illustration and science; ranging from a depiction of a marshelder plant created on Adobe Illustrator in 2010 to a hand drawn illustration of the anatomy of a channel catfish from 1975. A few of the illustrations were completed in his current position as assistant curator and collection manager of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden at Michigan State University.

While walking through the display, it may seem as though Carrington has been compiling his work over the years for something like this, but really, he kind of fell into it. As he put it, drawing was something that “called to him” from an early age. After studying entomology at MSU, he decided to take a chance on his artwork.

“I was young and studying a group of insects that only nine other people in the world were interested in and three of them were behind the iron curtain so they weren’t getting any of my letters,” Carrington said. “So I decided to go the opposite direction and do the thing that interested me but still involved everything.”

After carrying around his portfolio of insect drawings for a month, Carrington was hired by the chairman of the anatomy department at MSU. It was there that his miniscule collection of drawings grew larger than his folder could contain. He worked a few years in the anatomy department drawing material for publication and teaching before relocating to Auburn University where he worked in the fisheries department and wrote his first book.

Carrington’s collection continued to expand throughout the years as he did work for various advertising agencies and universities, though he eventually returned to MSU and earned a bachelor’s degree. He then began working in the entomology department doing what he called his “former true calling” - illustrating insects.

A plethora of jobs ensued over the span of Carrington’s career, each incorporating illustration and science in some capacity. Through it all, he never imagined pieces of his lifelong work hanging in a public domain.

“It’s truly humbling,” Carrington said. “I never envisioned my work would be hanging up for people to come and enjoy. The feeling is indescribable. I am extremely lucky and not afraid to admit it.”