Julia Rothman’s ‘Nature Anatomy – The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World‘ is the kind of book that you want to own and look at over and over again, especially if you like plants, berries, worms, birds, eggs, beaks, animals..the beautiful things that make the natural world. Rothman a designer and illustrator, a creative director at The New Yorker whose work looks like a dream is the author and illustrator of this irrésistible book.
Julia is an avowed citizen of New York and a child of a science teacher who in her childhood lived in City Island, Bronx. She was fond of picking shells, labelling them and observing the natural world around her.
She combines this with her experience as a designer, and a citizen of New York city to showcase the nature that abounds it in pots, gardens and benches. She recounts that she found it odd that she knew little about the leaves, seeds, birds and other animals she saw on a recurring basis, the other urban dwellers that shared space with humans.
This phenomenon of being unseen in plain sight is explained eloquently by Alexandra Horowitz in her book, On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes .
Part of seeing what is on an ordinary block is seeing that everything visible has a history. It arrived at the spot where you found it at some time, was crafted or whittled or forged at some time, filled a certain role or existed for a particular function. It was touched by someone (or no one), and touches someone (or no one) now.
She further cautions us against becoming blind to the living that is happening around us all the time. “Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that expectation. In a sense,
Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that expectation. In a sense, expectation is the lost cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process of the world “out there”. Attention is the more charismatic member, packaged and sold more effectively, but expectation is also a crucial part of what we see. Together they allow us to be functional, reducing the sensory chaos of the world into unbothersome and understandable units.
Rothman through her book Anatomy of Nature- Curious Parts And Pieces of the Natural World reduces some of this sensory chaos.
The illustrations can be termed luxuriant and reminds one of the other brilliant observer artist Maria Kalman. The illustrations make the reader feel that they must go out and spot these discoveries. Budding artists will want to try replicating Julia’s handiwork.
Rothman’s book details the flora and fauna in her neck of the woods but compels us to open our eyes and take in the biodiversity and life itself, where we are.