Microbial Worlds Extra Credit

  1. I was drawn to Deceptive Beauty by Ree Nancarrow because of the overall color scheme: having the warm and cool colors together to provide contrast makes a piece stand out more to me because the piece seems to pop. There are a lot of little details that stand out more as I looked closer at the piece. Nancarrow executed the methane theme very well because without reading the artists’ statement, I would have had no idea what the piece was representing. I think leaving the audience to guess what the theme of the artwork contributes to the artists’ message. Nancarrow successfully conveyed the meaning in the piece because Nancarrow mentioned the production of methane bubbles being produced in frozen lakes.
  2. The Prokaryotes by Mariah Henderson and and Eric Henderson embodies the idea of prokaryotic evolutionary relationships since Bacteria and Archaea domains represent prokaryotes, which is considered to be the more diverse than eukaryotes. I was drawn to this piece because of its simplicity, yet the concept that it represents is far from being simple.
  3. The concept of the human microbiome is exemplified in Specimen by Margo Klass. We recently went over some of the basics of the human microbiome and touched on the mouth because of what we would be doing in Lab 10. This art piece relates to this concept because it is a prime example of the damage that microbes can do if we do not take care of our body. In the artists’ statement, Klass briefly mentions how there are some bacteria that can thrive when sugars are present and cause tooth decay/damage, and in lecture we went into more detail about how harmful microbes can be to teeth, such as plaque build-up.
  4. If I were an artist working in this show, I would probably make a piece of art exploring the concept of viruses because viruses are very prevalent in today’s society between increasing news coverage about disease outbreaks or the fact that there are more viruses that are mutating and starting to become resistant to treatment. I probably would have created an abstract painting focusing on the structure of a particular disease and kind of showing the impact that it has on people in terms of the symptoms that it causes.

Microbial Worlds Extra Credit

  1. Microbes 1, 2, and 3 by Charotte Bird

Microbes 1, 2, and 3 is a collection of three quilts that show, according to the description, groups of microbes collected in water samples from lakes and streams in the tundra. The first quilt shows a chain of streptobacilli, cocci with three flagella, and some kind of protist. I personally found this first quilt very aesthetically pleasing because of how the black of the microbes contrasted with the white background representing the slide. This piece does a great job of highlights the different shapes that microbes come in. Also the microbes continue on the quilt outside of the slide perhaps symbolizing that they are found everywhere. The microbes on the quilt appear to made scientifically accurate and look like the ones I have seen under a microscope, except bigger. Overall this piece successfully embodies the concept of microbes as seen under a slide and is very visually pleasing as well.


  1. Transmission of information by Jennifer Moss

Transmission of information is a vinyl disk with a smaller aluminum disk in the middle. Printed on the aluminum disk is the picture of two bacterial colonies overlaid with the four hand shadows. In the description it says that the bacterial colonies were grown from a hand swab. I really like this because it is showing something that we often don’t think about, yet is really important; our microbiome. We are covered in bacteria and they are very important to our health, yet until recently our interactions with our microbiome were very well studied. This piece quite beautiful both visually and conceptually, but I personally would have found it more attractive had it displayed the diversity of bacteria that are on our hands rather then showing just one species.


  1. Deceptive Beauty by Ree Nancarrow

This piece is a quilt that depicts a person penetrating a bubble in the ice of a permafrost lake and lighting the escaping gas on fire. In our lecture on Archaea we learned that there is a large phyla of Archaea called methanogens who live in anaerobic environments and produce methane. This methane production is a byproduct from the use of various methyl substrates as an electron acceptor. This form of metabolism doesn’t produce a lot of energy, but it favorable for these Archaea since the environments they live in are very limited in nutrients. These methanogens are found in huge quantities at the bottom of Alaska’s permafrost lakes and create the methane bubble shown in the art.


  1. If I were an artist in this project simulate the three dimensionality and diversity of microbes. Most people don’t think of microbes be diverse in structure, shape and color, thinking that all microbes look similar to coli. Thus I would create different types of microbes out of clays and then incase them into epoxy resin bubbles, so that people could see the diversity of microbe shapes.

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.

Microbial Worlds

Microbial Worlds

  1. De:composition: Stephanie Rae Dixon and Mary Beth Leigh
    “Decomposition” is both aesthetically and auditorily pleasing by combining many medium’s to show how decomposition can come full circle in science and the beautiful, natural world we are meant to live in. The artists successfully embodied their decomposition study done at the Kevo Subarctic Research Station. The videography and photo’s done of the scientist’s in the decomposed dresses to me is how the art tied the connection between science and life. This was especially emphasized by playing the video onto the sculpture, the decomposition site. Our natural world is constantly working to create life and decompose life; whether that be plant material or people. We all have to work together to keep the circle of creation, living, and decomposition flowing smoothly in the environment we live. This collaboration piece is beautiful. Very hard to accurately describe everything it makes you think about.
  2. Mycorrhizae: Gail Priday
    While visiting the exhibit I found myself drawn to many pieces done by Gail Priday. I love how she uses many natural colors, and creates a simple, beautiful, realistic setting  in her art. In this piece she takes the very complex mycorrhizal system, and simplifies it. I believe that she did successfully embody the symbiotic relationships between fungi and plants she was wanting to portray based on her write up in this piece. In her write up she says, “This system of interdependence is a beautiful example of nature modeling for us the value and necessity of working together.” I find the piece to possibly be a little too simple when compared to the underground web that mycorrhizae creates, but that is also what makes the piece beautiful and relatable.
  3. Veiled Unveiled: Mariah Henderson
    This piece is a great example of how difficult seeing and discovering organisms can be without the aid of stains and the many technological improvements that have made discoveries in science a little easier. “Veiled Unveiled” shows that seeing an organism under a microscope can be aided by using a crystal violet stain, just like the one we used in lab. We also learned that a stain can show up differently depending on the organism based off of its cellular structure, which can also help scientists understand the organism. I love the title of this piece, gives a spooky/suspenseful spin on the staining process and using the microscope.
  4. If I were an artist I would want to attempt to portray some aspect of prokaryotic cell structure and function, specifically phototaxis. I would combine painting and fabrics and create a piece with different textures, natural colors, with many shapes to make it fun. There would be bright sun/light, and then underneath the light have different shapes being lifted up or moving towards the light (organisms), and also showing some moving away and hiding from the bright light. As the organisms gets closer to the light they become bigger, and their flagella become more motile.

Microbial Worlds

  1. Mariah Henderson. “Permafrost: Warming”. I was reading the author’s statement about her work and found out that Mariah participated in this project and learned a lot about global warming and permafrost. The author was impressed on how global the climate changes were and that the thawing permafrost mass became available for metabolism by different microorganisms. The by-products of microbial activity, carbon dioxide and methane, are the major contributors to the “green house” effects and lead to global warming that cause the permafrost to thaw. I found this art work interesting in visual aspect because the author showed the abundant microbial growth on the media. There are lots of bright colors that make this art piece visually attractive for the visitors to stop by and take a look at it.
  2. Nancy Hausle-Johnson. “EMERGENCE: The Warming Climate is Waking Up Sleeping Microbes’. This exhibition is the first one I see that collaborate art and science. It is a great project because most of scientific concerns (i.e. global warming, permafrost thawing) can be expressed through art and brought to public attention. In this art piece, the author researched microbial and fungal diversity on frozen, partially frozen, and completely thawed permafrost. The message to the public is that microbial and fungal abundance and diversity on thawing permafrost can bring potential danger to the environment and the life on the Earth. There can be dormant microorganisms in frozen permafrost that can become active and be potentially harmful as the present population of different species was never exposed to them before. The art piece is aesthetically attractive to viewers being so rich in color, and very organized. The author expressed microbial and fungal abundance as a different in color and shape colonies on various backgrounds. I don’t think that the author should change anything in her work.
  3. Jennifer Moss. “Global transport of microbes: Migration + bacteria grown from dental floss after eating duck for dinner’. “Transmission of information: Hands + bacteria grown from finger swab’. The author used the same concept that we are using in our term project in this class: taking samples from different environment, inoculating the different media, and describing the growth of bacteria. The single difference that the author described the colonies visually through art and painted them. The students will describe microorganisms more in depth: isolating pure culture, identifying the microorganisms through staining and genome sequencing.
  4. If I would be an artist involved in similar project, I would probably use the following microbiological concepts: isolating the microorganism, use different staining techniques, and use fluorescent, laser, or electron microscopy to create bright and vivid art projects.

Extra Credit: Microbial Worlds (2 February 2017)

1. PIECE 1:   Deceptive Beauty by: Ree Nancarrow (Artist) in collaboration with Debbie Clark Moderow (Writer)
I attended the art show on First Friday. I enjoyed all of the quilts that were hanging on the wall. I especially really enjoyed the fungi one that is our class background. However, since it is featured on our website, I decided to pick one of the other quilts. I selected Deceptive Beauty because as we all know, Alaska is a very unique state with all the permafrost laden soils we have here. I work as a Pathways Intern Ecologist with the USDA NRCS and we collaborate with our Soil Scientist’s in regards to vegetation found in association with certain types of soils. Our “Black Spruce Uglies,” Picea mariana, are a species well known to soils laden with permafrost. They can be found in very wet, boggy environments. They are shallow rooted trees and therefore, continue to grow even with permafrost at depth. Roughly 95% of the time, when you see black spruce growing, you will also find permafrost.
Regardless of this fact, I chose this art piece because it reminded me of how as our global temperature increases, permafrost melts and not only creates lakes, but also allows microbes to consume dead organic matter and release methane into the atmosphere. Some of those methane bubbles had been trapped in permafrost and have since been released as well. Also, in the descriptive portion, the writer states, “methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.” (Moderow)
Yes, I feel the artist successfully embodied the concept behind the quilt. The art depicts microbes consuming dead organic matter at the bottom of a lake and releasing methane as a bi-product. On the left, there appears to be a scientist in winter gear capturing methane. There is also flame at the top of the quilt, which is accurate to say the least since methane is flammable. The black spruce uglies in the quilt have stunted growth, which is indicative of poor soil quality and permafrost presence. I would give the artist an A+ on this piece.

2. PIECE 2: Lichen by: Gail Priday
When it comes to lichen, they are complex organisms made up of symbiotic relationships between fungi, photosynthetic cyanobacteria or algae, and potentially yeast (more recently discussed). The fungi portion of the relationship provides protection for the photosynthetic components. The photosynthetic components are autotrophic, and therefore, provide food for the fungi to feed on.
The artist painted a picture with a few species of lichen on a branch, lying on the ground of a forest ecosystem. The art is a great visualization for what you can find in nature. The artist created a piece that is realistic. The contrasting colors of the piece depict how much thought and effort was put into the entire project in order to make the art as realistic as possible.
In my opinion, this piece is conceptually interesting as well as aesthetically compelling. I do not feel the artist needed to improve anything. Gail appears to have depicted the vegetation in the art accurately. There appear to be some Orthelia secunda or Pyrola, possibly Linnaea borealis, Cladonia, Cladina, and a few other species. Of course, the species may vary depending on where the initial photograph or viewing occurred. Here in Alaska, we have several abundant species of lichen and other vegetation.

3. PIECE 3: Toolik Chain of Lakes by: Ree Nancarrow. Microbes 1,2, and 3 by: Charlotte Bird
The main quilt art depicts the chain of lakes that are found up in Toolik. Along the outer perimeter of the quilt, several species of vegetation are depicted. Apparently, the scientists are studying bacterioplankton. The three small quilt pieces on the right side of the quilt depict a few microbes that were collected in water column samples. The scientists discovered 5 distinct microbes whose DNA profiles do not match any known organisms, which is interesting in itself. The fact that there were five distinct microbes found in the same area indicates evolution is happening, even at the microscopic level. Microorganisms play an important role in just about every situation, to include vegetative health, and overall ecosystem health. The abundance of several microbial varieties contribute to the overall health of the Toolik Chain Ecosystem. Depending on the environment, the new species of bacteria discovered in the samples most likely evolved to maintain their long term fitness. The farther north you go, the colder it is as well, which could potentially make a few of these species psychrophiles.

4. The microbiological concept I would probably focus on if I were an artist, would be   extremophiles. Extremophiles are intriguing to me because of their ability to withstand extreme conditions. While I was in the Army, I was a Medical Food Inspection Specialist (68R) and when I first became a veteran after my EAS, I worked for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service as a Consumer Safety Inspector. My primary job was to ensure safe food handling and regulation compliance. Sanitation is one of the biggest hits production plants may get. Listeria can be a big problem in plants that have a lot of condensation build up. Clostridium botulinum can be another major problem in food safety if retort procedures are not followed to a T. In fact, our 9 Code of Federal Regulations is hundreds of pages thick and about 1/4 of the entire book is dedicated to regulations regarding retort.
I would like to either have created some sort of art regarding extremophiles in stained glass, or clay, or potentially even crochet.

Overall, this was a fun little exhibit to attend. The only display I found odd was the beach trash. Everything else was pretty amazing and interesting.

EXTRA CREDIT: Microbial Worlds art exhibit

This extra credit opportunity requires that you either attend the Microbial Worlds art exhibit or use the exhibit website.

Deadline: TBA (sometime after March 1 —TBA – The deadline will be after the website contains more content for those who can’t attend the show in person.

Submission method: Create a post and categorize it as “ExtraCredit: Microbial Worlds’

Exhibit hours: Feb. 3-27, Tues-Sat 12-6 pm, Well Street Art Co., with special First Friday reception Feb. 3 from 5-8 pm. There is also a literary reading and discussion with artists on Saturday, Feb. 11, 4-5 pm that you are welcome to attend.

Website: itoc.alaska.edu Note that the website doesn’t yet have the artwork  posted.



Find 3 different pieces in the exhibit to examine and use as you answer the 4 questions below. These can be visual art pieces or written pieces (poetry by Susan Campbell or the essay by Debbie Moderow). Note that most visual art pieces are accompanied by a statement posted on the wall nearby that explains the microbiological inspiration (concept) behind the work – these statements are printed on paper with a grey border. Be sure to read the statements (when present) to fully understand the background on the piece. You can also learn more about the concepts behind the pieces at the reading/discussion on Saturday Feb. 11  if you’d like.

For full credit, be sure to name the artist and art piece (or series of pieces) for each of your responses.

  1. 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)
  1. 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)
  1. 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)
  1. 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)