Biology inspires Art

My name is Sabina Mästle Torres. I am an alumni of the graduating class of 2020 and have been at the GISW since preschool.  I am an artist and I cannot remember a time where art was not a fundamental part of my everyday life and my existence. I started going to an art school, Stone branch school of art, when I was 5 years old. I went to art school for 12 years alongside the GISW. Through my art classes in Stonebranch and the GISW, I have learned a lot about many different art types and was able to strengthen and develop my art talents.

I created this art piece as an extra credit project for my biology class. This idea stems from my wish to illustrate topics we have covered in our biology class, such as the different biological kingdoms. I found this topic very interesting. Since I prefer working with images over texts, this topic inspired me to visualize and illustrate it in order to understand the different parts better.

The creation of the art piece was a lengthy process that stretched out over months. First I decided on a topic, researched it, and created a sketch. Then I discussed the project with teachers from both the art and science department at the GISW. After these discussions, I gathered the signatures  and project approval of all the teachers in the science department  I handed in this list of signatures along with a material list and a copy of the sketch to the school administration to get it approved. Once the sketch and the material was approved and my Abitur exams were behind me, I started working on the canvas.  This painting process took over a month and was the cause for multiple sleepless nights.

There is a lot of symbolism hidden in this painting.  The tree in the center connects all the elements in the painting. My inspiration for the tree was Yggdrasil’s, the “world tree” that connects the nine worlds in norse mythology. I have always been fascinated by mythology. I loved the mythical concept of the “world tree”. It does not just connect the nine worlds but inevitably connects each organism within these worlds. This concept works well with my art piece as every organism in my art piece is part of a bigger cycle and is therefore connected to the other.

The green snake that is wrapped around the middle branches of the tree, symbolizes the animal kingdom, animalia. I chose the snake because when some people hear the word animalia, they immediately assume that this term stands for mammals. By depicting a snake as the symbol for the animalia kingdom, I wanted to show that mammals are not the only group in the animal kingdom.

The fungi, that is growing on the left side of the tree’s branches, symbolize their own kingdom, Funghi.


The pink flowers that are adorning the tree’s right branches, symbolize the plant kingdom, Plantae.  The inspiration for these flowers are the cherry blossoms.  Through the use of these flowers, I wanted to create a connection between my painting and my hometown, Washington D.C., where the Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event.




The organisms that are placed in the right tree roots, belong to the Monera kingdom (one cell organisms without a nucleus). The inspiration for these organisms were scientific drawings that I found during my internet research.





The organisms, swimming between the left tree roots, are members of the Protista kingdom. Like with the Monera organisms, the inspiration in this case were scientific drawings from the past.

My art piece has a great significance for me. It is my first scientific art piece. It was also the biggest painting I have ever painted and this fact makes me very proud. A part of me still cannot believe that I actually planned and painted this art piece. I am delighted and honored that the GISW will hang my painting in the science building.

I would like to thank my art teacher, Ms.Cheshire, who gave me great tips during the creation of my art piece and was always open to answer questions and give her advice.  I also want to thank my biology teacher, Ms. Bankert, who suggested the project to me. Additionally, I wanted to thank the GISW administration for approving my painting and for their financial support.

Sabina M.T. (Graduating class of 2020)

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