Sunday, September 6, 2009
When scientists become artists
In this view of human tonsil tissue, scientists used green labels to locate naïve B lymphocytes, red for mature B cells and blue for a chaperone molecule. They then captured the image with a confocal microscope.
from the article,
Outside a third-floor elevator at the Brady Memorial Laboratory, four unusual prints are displayed on the wall. Each is a square filled with a dense and intricate pattern that resembles television static; the prints are identical except for different bright hues. Their striking texture and colors invite a long examination. They would not look out of place in an art gallery.
Or would they? The patterns represent a DNA microarray, and they were created by scientists working with David F. Stern, Ph.D., professor of pathology, and by Terry Dagradi, a photographer and image specialist in information technology at the medical school who curated the display. The images are just a few of the many that Dagradi solicited from School of Medicine researchers as part of an ongoing project sponsored by the Office of Facilities Operations to display interesting scientific images in the corridors of the medical school. The Stern images are among the few that Dagradi altered (she added color), but in each case she played an artist’s role herself in choosing, framing and arranging the images. “There is a pattern and a rhythm” to these images, said Dagradi. “Somebody made a visual decision.”
Along with facilities manager Lorraine Roseman, Dagradi had already co-founded and curated ArtPlace, a project that since 2000 has shown the work of local artists, including many medical school faculty, on the walls of the Yale Physicians’ Building (YPB) on Howard Avenue. But unlike in the YPB galleries, which exhibit portraits, landscapes and abstracts in various media, the laboratory images were made in the course of scientific research—mostly with microscopes. For example, in the Bridge Gallery at The Anlyan Center (TAC), which runs along a second-floor walkway that connects the center with Brady Memorial Laboratory across the street, passersby are momentarily arrested by a fluorescent tick; by a protein rendered as writhing arrows, bulges and ribbons; by a 15-day-old mouse fetus, its snout and nail beds picked out in delicate blue, a portrait as tender as the sight of a sleeping child; by a set of neurons done in soft blues, pinks and greens that look like impressionist pastels, the cells seeming to strain upward like so many flowers in a Monet painting. Images like these straddle an uncertain boundary between scientific representation and the fine arts, and for some viewers they raise the question, what is art?
For as long as scientists have made observations, they have illustrated them. Andreas Vesalius, the 16th-century pioneer of the study of anatomy, took apart and reassembled the human body in allegorical poses; Robert Hooke, the English polymath and contemporary of Isaac Newton, drew a flea seen under a microscope; John James Audubon, the 19th-century American naturalist and ornithologist, painted birds at a Louisiana plantation. The stunning images that resulted might be called ancestors of the ones at the medical school.
“When I look at those 17th-century images, I don’t hesitate to think of them as artworks,” said Jonathan Gilmore, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy and a critic for publications including Art in America and Artforum. “[Hooke is] not just showing you these things as they looked under the microscope—he’s saying something about how marvelous or wondrous they are. … There’s no reason not to call that art.”
Purkinje cells from an adult mouse, located in the cerebellum and among the largest neurons in the brain, were stained red for acetylcholine receptors and green for DNA. The image was captured with a Zeiss Laser Scanning META microscope.
Ticks from the Ixodes family, the vectors for Lyme disease, were microinjected with fluorescent dyes to label surface structures and midgut cells. The images of the living ticks were made by laser scanning confocal fluorescent microscopy 24 hours after the dyes had been injected.
Ticks from the Ixodes family, the vectors for Lyme disease, were microinjected with fluorescent dyes to label surface structures and midgut cells. The images of the living ticks were made by laser scanning confocal fluorescent microscopy 24 hours after the dyes had been injected
Posted by Chris Mansel at 1:39 PM