The Biosphere

Artist: Sophie Stark
Laboratory: Seth Bordenstein

Sophia Stark has worked in Vanderbilt’s
Bioarchaeology and Stable Isotope Research Lab under Dr. Tung for around a year. Stark assist Dr. Tung and graduate students with collagen and enamel sample preparation, processing, and data entry. In addition to her work in the lab, she has worked on two archaeological excavations, one in Huancavelica, Peru, and the other in Caesarea, Israel. During these projects she assisted with excavation, cleaning, and analysis of artifacts and human re Stark is currently a Studio Art major at Vanderbilt, and has dabbled in a variety of mediums. The majority of her work has been sculptural, due to her background in special effects make up and costume design. She has adapted these techniques and materials to her current style, which favors materials like silicone and resin. Recently, she has become interested in oil painting and printmaking processes to create two dimensional works as well. Much of her artwork is centered around the theme of body horror and exposed viscera. Stark often creates works based on personal and emotional experiences, and uses body horror to depict devastation in a visceral visual image.

This particular piece was meant to demonstrate the broad concept of the biosphere, where different bacteria interact through the plants and animals that host them. Stark’s mentor for this project, Seth Bordenstein, works more specifically with phages in the bodies of humans and insects. However, for this piece, they decided to communicate the presence of bacterial phages on a larger scale. Therefore, Stark decided to create a sculpture of some of the Tennessee state plants and animals composed of various bacteria. The sculpture is a low relief style in silicone, which makes for an interesting transparency and vibrant color scheme in a photograph.

Stark believes that through the VI4 Summer Artistin-Residence program she was challenged to bridge the gap between her interest in art and science. She finds she has become a better collaborator through this experience, and hopes to continue making art for scientific publications in the future.

Leave a Reply