Ovarian follicles. Light microscopy, hematoxylin and eosin stain, magnification 200x. Colors are enhanced for better visualisation
Real fluorescence microscopic view of human skin cells in culture. Nucleus are in blue, actin filaments are in red, tubulin was labeled with green
The theme of the ArtLab 2019 exhibition is FOCAL POINT: Lights, Lasers, and Lenses. In preparing for the exhibition, we are seeking microscopy images from the Vanderbilt community. Do you or someone you know have microscopy images that they want to submit? Using the bottom below, submit your image along with a brief description. Selected submissions will be printed and exhibited at the Wond’ry. This is a great way to highlight your lab’s beautiful work!
Chances are you have never heard her name, but you may have seen your work. It was rare for her to add her name to her images but these images are foundational and insiprational for contemporary SciArt and science visualization. In an exhibition entitled “Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock”, the American Folk Art Museum is showcasing Hitchcock’s work through Oct. 14th. She was also recently featured in an article by Erin Blakemore in the Washington Post:
This year guest lecturer, Daniel Kohn, has a history of genetics and art. In 2003, Kohn began a partnership with Dr. Todd Golub who, at the time, was an oncologist at Dana Farber and who would go on to become co-founder of the Board. Golub, like many of us, was interested in exploring the intersection of art and science and, with Kohn, began an artist-in-residency program at the Broad Institute for Genetic Research at both MIT and Harvard. Kohn’s work at the Board institute based on interviews and discussions with scientists, the development of the Broad visualization group, art explore the space of genomics and developing a point of convergence between science and art. His final work was the development of a watercolor grid of 8X8 sheet, developing a database of images, that when put together created a heat-map, each but also connected within working groups.
ArtLab participant at Vanderbilt also explored genetic identity. Vanderbilt Undergraduate students Chiaki Santiago and Sophia Druffner considered how individuals could be reconstructed based on their genetics and environmental pressure to characterize the individual uniquely. They highlighted the beauty in the space between cultures and their intersection. Their thought process showcased individuals defined by their backgrounds and life experiences. These people lived with various histories and traditions, most as inherent to them as the DNA itself. They also used falcon tubes to highlight Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the assay used to amplify and replicate specific portions of DNA, and they used this symbolism to amplified the elements of the individual’s culture. With each defining the content, the art was a comment to the viewer about what is essential to the individual subject. Items in the falcon tubes included food made by grandparents, earth from their home, and mementos of that represented their faith. For the artists, this project aimed to have the viewer contemplate genetics, cultural replication, and individual identity.
Sophomore undergraduate, Eve Moll, delve into the epigenetics of learning and memory. As a 20-year-old student and visual artist, her submission for ArtLab was a piece inspired by the work carried out by the Sweatt Lab at Vanderbilt University concerning epigenetics processes within the hippocampus, a brain structure essential for learning and memory. Her painting expresses the feeling of memory while representing the biological basis of memory through light bulbs that are switched “on” and “off” with the encoding and stabilization of memory. These light-bulbs, which signify epigenetic marks, can be turned on or turned off by biochemical processes such as methylation or chromatin structure modification. As their gene expression shifts, their long-term physiology and function are also altered, storing learned information acquired throughout our lives. To Moll, this piece is a tribute to the processes quietly at work between our ears as we learn, experience, grow, and remember. It also highlights the very personal and private nature of genetics as it relates to the identity of the individual.
These works reflect questions explored by fantastic science-artists such as Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Koby Barhad. Heather Dewey-Hagborg as an information artist and bio-hacker, is most noted for her project Stranger Visions. This work is a series of portraits created from DNA samples she obtained from discarded items, such as hair, cigarettes and chewing gum while living in Brooklyn, New York. She sequenced the DNA at the Brooklyn open biotechnology laboratory, Genspace. From this, she was able to determine the gender, ethnicity and other factors of the individual to whom the DNA belonged. She then used face-generating software and a 3D printer to create a 3D portrait of the stranger from whom she collected genetic material. Her work brings to questions many issues with genetic privacy, although she also mentions the limitations in accurately reconstructing a person only from their DNA sample using today’s technology. Koby Barhad also pushed genetic identity and privacy boundaries by using Elvis’ DNA to engineer two mouse-Elvis hybrids. Purchasing Elvis’s hair off eBay, he sent the hair sample to a gene sequencing lab to identify behavioral traits in areas including sociability, athletic performance, obesity, and addiction. Taking it a step further, Barhad created a series of experimental conditions that would simulate Elvis’ life experiences for the mice. These experiments begin to test the boundaries on genetics heredity versus environmental influence, but also bring to question Elvis’s privacy rights. In an interview with Wired (UK) magazine, Barhad discussing the many questions that his work raises including issues like “when does a person become mythologized to the point where they are more of a symbol than a human” or “can someone ‘own’ another’s DNA if they purchase it.”
With these questions in mind, ArtLab is having an open a call for submission for work that explores genetic privacy and identity. ArtLab is particularly interested in work that explores one (or more) of the following categories: identity in the genetic resolution, Direct-to-consumer advertising for genetic testing, issues of diversity in genetic testing. Submission remains open until September 2018. Please send the submission to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “Submission; Genetic Privacy and Identity.”
ArtLab was a fantastic success with the numerous ArtLab participants and guests that both submitted their artwork and attended the exhibition on March 1-2. This success would not be possible without the support of the Curb Center and the Wond’ry. The ArtLab exhibition was sold out with over 50 people registered for the event. The works that were displayed ranged from paintings exploring biostatistics in behavior, to images of fruit fly larva, to graphics design, interactive art pieces, and much more. Participants were even able to paint in 3D with the help of the Wond’ry Virtual Reality equipment. Overall, this experience brought together artists, scientists, educators, and supporters from across the Vanderbilt and Nashville community to initiate a dialogue about the place of art in science and science in art. In order to continue this dialogue, ArtLab will be hosting an online discussion board on the topic of art and science collaborations and discussions within the Vanderbilt and Nashville community. To access this discussion board please go to:
The two-day event was a fantastic opportunity for artists and scientists to meet and discuss the intersection of art and science with speakers that excel within this juncture. The events started off with a collective discussion lead by guest speaker Daniel Kohn. In total this collective discussion we explored on the role of perspective in representation. Daniel emphasized that in order to understand the truth of a subject, one must equally value all perspectives. For a scientist, this concept may seem unnecessary as the goal of science is to uncover a universal empirical truth. We then began to discuss the role of art within a science context. Is art used to represent what we already know (illustration)? Or is art a representation of what we do not yet know? Although answers to these questions were not decided, it is clear that art impacts all aspects of our culture including the communication of science and the deeper contemplation of complex biological systems.
On day 2 we heard from Vanderbilt speakers. First Vesna Pavlovic, M.F.A., Associate Professor of Art, discussed the role of images and in particular physical slides photos in a cultural memories and historical importance. By cataloging slides, Vesna brings to life the history and value associated particular memories for her subjects. The importance of photos in cultural memory and history rings true across her subjects, from American to Ukrainian history. Yet, how this translates into the digital era is something that Vesna is interested in exploring through her courses within the Art Department. She looks forward to the release of her new book, Lost Art, with a launch party at Parnassus Books on March 31st.
Next, we heard from Dr. David Sweatt who spoke about the neurobiology of creativity. He broke down creativity into two main categories, first the unique, innovative approaches to problem-solving and second an emphasis on productivity and perseverance. Dr. Sweatt argues that the creation of novel thought is based on the connection of new ideas through associative learning and problem-solving approaches, cognitive domains that rely heavily on hippocampal and neocortical circuitry. Productivity, in contrast, is related to the function of the dopaminergic reward system. These two complementary pathways together steer creativity within people, however the mechanisms by which individual creative experiences are generated remain elusive. Finally, Dr. Miriam Lense spoke about the association of music with language and communication. Most importantly, music is a social experience. Learning the language of music is much like learning a language. Her work is driving forward new approaches to engage and socialize individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other social disorders.
We look forward to continuing to expand ArtLab next year. If you, or someone you know, would like to be added to the email list for upcoming events we ask that you provide your information and complete the following survey: https://is.gd/Artlab