ExtraCredit: Microbial Worlds

Name (piece name and artist) and describe an art piece that you found compelling aesthetically (was attractive or interesting to you in terms of its visual, verbal, or other sensory impact). Do you feel that this work of art successfully embodied the concept behind it? Why or why not? (3 pts)

Jennifer Moss’s Interconnected is a piece made of eight single digital photographs on round aluminum, vinyl. She describes the inspiration of the piece as ideas and interconnections between the microbial world and larger systems. There is no way to critique this work of art without examining each individual piece. The disk in the upper left is a trout and zoo/phytoplankton from arctic lake samples which is meant to display food web, water security and climate change.  Honestly, this piece does make me think of these concepts. I interpret the fish connected to microbes in the water since both are clearly defined but I do not think climate change or even water security. The piece, Influences on Human Behavior (toxoplasmosis), with the cat on a grey speckled surface does indeed make me think of toxoplasmosis purely because I just read a book that talked about this parasites effect on the human mind. The piece that really resonates with me is called Collaborative Interactions. With the network of orange bacteria behind the stereotypical community image of people linked by hands makes me think of the bacterial human symbiosis we rely on. I assume this is what the artist would like us to interpret from the name. Overall, Interconnected makes a good point about how microbes control or are an important part of the bigger ecosystem.

Name another piece in the exhibit that is based on an interesting concept, based on the written science statement associated with it. Summarize the concept and describe the piece. Do you feel that the art piece is as aesthetically compelling (attractive visually, verbally, etc.) as it is conceptually interesting (including scientifically)? Why or why not? If not, can you suggest something that the artists could have done differently? (3 pts)

Deceptive Beauty, by Ree Nancarrow in collaboration with Debbie Clarke Moderow (writer), is a quilt with water, woods, and fire and, what appear to be, bubbles. The description says the piece was inspired by research professor, Katey Walter Anthony, and aquatic ecosystem ecologist, who studies methane in frozen lakes in Fairbanks. Specifically, to examine the emission of methane and carbon dioxide triggered by permafrost thaw. When plants thaw out of the permafrost at the bottom of lakes, bacteria feed in an anaerobic environment producing methane which shows as bubbles on the lakes’ surface. This is more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This piece does a wonderful job at being a visual for the concept of bacteria feeding on plants at the bottom of the lake and bubbles rising to the surface. All pieces are present in the order that events happen from bottom up. The fire even defines the existence of methane instead of plain bubbles.

Connections: Identify another piece in the exhibit that involves a microbiological concept you’ve learned during class. Explain the concept and how the art piece relates to it. (3 pts)

A series of four pieces by Sara Tabbert named individually Sample A, Sample B, Sample C, and Sample D. The concept learned in class that I connect to these pieces is the visual classification of microbes. I know that when I look at microbes through a microscope, they look similar but when carefully analyzed look much different from each other in little ways. For example, Sample A looks similar to Sample C but upon closer examination you see the clusters are different. The radically different color schemes each piece makes it clear that the microbes are vastly different as I think was the artist’s intent. Then of course there are ways to classify the appearance of these microbes more precisely. Cocci shaped bacteria may be further classified by their physical arrangement. In the case of this artwork, there are streptobacilli and cocci of various arrangements.

If you were an artist involved in this project show, what microbiological concept would you have worked with? What sort of piece might you have created? (1 pt)

If I was involved with this art show, I would have worked with human infectious diseases. Maybe use the silhouettes of people with specific diseases caused by pathogens, such as tuberculosis and fill in the part of the body that bacteria attacks, in this case the lungs, with the microscopic view of the microorganism. To make it more visually interesting, I would have a black, shiny, reflective surface for the silhouettes and the microbes printed directly on the medium.