A perfect blend of art and science

July 11, 2018
  • Carmen Martin in front of the new Bell Museum's mammoth exhibit
    Carmen Martin with the Bell Museum's Pleistocene Minnesota diorama, featuring a (synthetic) woolly mammoth, giant beaver, glacier, and a real musk ox.
  • The synthetic wooly mammoth's eye
  • Martin at work on the giant beaver at Blue Rhino Studio.
    Carmen Martin at work at Blue Rhino Studio.
  • Carmen Martin with the giant beaver, part of the new Bell museums mammoth exhibit
    Carmen Martin with the giant beaver, part of the new Bell Museum's Pleistocene Minnesota diorama.
  • The mammoth in progress at Blue Rhino Studio
    The mammoth and the ice landform begin to take shape at Blue Rhino Studio.
  • mammoth hair is added
    The mammoth's synthetic fur is added.
  • close-up of toes of the mammoth
  • Martin at the Blue Rhino workshop
    “It’s a perfect amalgamation of all of my interests. If I had a dream job, this is it.” ~Carmen Martin
  • the mammoth head is loaded for delivery
    The completed wooly mammoth top is ready for delivery.
  • Carmen Martin poses with mammoth tusks
    “I feel like I’m on a quest for knowledge. I just want to know everything, and I dunno—I’m getting there.” ~Carmen Martin

As the Bell Museum reopens after a monumental reimagining that includes a wooly mammoth exhibit, graduate student Carmen Martin can lay claim to an experience that blended perfectly her love of art and science. Plus, she got to work on the mammoth exhibit.

Martin (Racine, WI) came to the U of M as an undergraduate for its art program in 2006.

“So I started out as an art major, and then a couple years in I switched to science, but I didn’t forget about art,” says Martin.

Martin is a gifted painter, sculptor, and illustrator, but nature and the outdoors have always been integral to her pursuits. 

At the U, she found an opportunity to work in specimen preparation for the Bell Museum, preparing many of the educational pieces that show life in all its varied forms in Minnesota.

After Martin finished her undergraduate degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, she took some time off, but soon returned to pursue a masters in Conservation Sciences. She also returned to the Bell, this time as a curatorial assistant for its mammal collections.

During the Bell’s makeover, her skills caught the attention of Blue Rhino Studio, a nationally renowned group that specializes in design and artistic fabrication for museums and zoological environments, located in nearby Eagan, MN.

Martin connected with Blue Rhino through their work creating the Bell’s Pleistocene Minnesota diorama, featuring a woolly mammoth, giant beaver, glacier, and a real musk ox.

It wasn’t long before she was hired as an intern—Blue Rhino's first—and she’s now transitioned into a part-time summer job.

In the process, she’s helped detail some of the iceberg and landform on which the mammoth now stands.

“Whenever I see any sort of sculpture, or exhibit, I’m always trying to figure out how they did it, and how I would do it. So getting to actually see the real process—it’s really cool.”

See more of Carmen Martin's work.