TWiV 352: Science art with Michele Banks

On episode #352 of the science show This Week in Virology, Vincent meets up with Michele Banks in Washington, DC to discuss her career as a creator of science-themed art.

You can find TWiV #352 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.

Viral necklaces

infectiousAt LORiOLA you will find hand sculpted glass beads and jewelry by Lori Flanders. As pointed out by artist Michelle Banks, some of Lori’s necklaces appear to be made with virus particles, as you can see in the photograph to the left. That necklace is called ‘infectious‘.

I asked Lori whether she drew inspiration from viruses. Here is her reply:

I make them for a few reasons. 1. They look really cool.  2. They’re challenging to make and since I get bored pretty fast I like to keep pushing & practicing my skill. 3. Some are layers of different colors and I like to see to what the glass does when layered, and 4. They look really cool, right?

The fun for me when I work is mostly in sculpting the glass. After I make a ton of beads I lay them all out and see which ones work together in a necklace. I rarely plan the necklace before I make the beads. One of my challenges when sculpting the beads is to see how perfectly spaced I can get the bumps.

In her description of ‘infectious’ Lori writes:

When I designed this piece I had at least 40 beads on my table and just started grabbing the ones that I thought were the most interesting, and would create a balanced graduated necklace. I didn’t really care what the colors were, and honestly if I just listed the actual colors you would probably not believe that they would look this amazing all together.

It’s interesting that in making an object that Lori finds beautiful, she ended up with a form that looks like a virus particle. The viruses in Lori’s beads are spherical with projections that could be glycoproteins, or simply capsid subunits. Some of the virus particles represent simple structures, because they contain only five-fold axes of symmetry, while others are a mix of five-fold and six-fold axes that would be found in larger particles. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should listen to my lecture on virus structure.

Here are some of Lori’s other cool virus-like necklaces.

new and fabulous #1

new and fabulous #1

new and fabulous #2

new and fabulous #2

new and fabulous #3

new and fabulous #3

New and fabulous #3, above, was sold and is no longer at LORiOLA.

new and fabulous #4

new and fabulous #4

blue caterpillar

blue caterpillar

I think that these necklaces are gorgeous – not only because I love viruses, but because they are colorful and wonderfully crafted. LORiOLA is the latest addition to my collection of microbe art.

Viruses at Artomatic 2012

While on a business trip to Washington DC I took time to visit Artomatic 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. Artomatic is a month-long festival of over 1,000 artists who create visual art, music, performance, film, fashion, and more. I went because Forrest McCluer was showing his work there – he makes models of viruses from computer parts. We have featured his work on the science show This Week in Virology, most recently on episode 184. Forrest alerted us to the exhibit of another artist working with microbe themes, Michele Banks, and I went to see her work as well.

Forrest was showing AdenoCD virus, a model of adenovirus built from compact discs. Below are some photographs of the showing. Clicking them will load a much larger version.

adenoCD virus

AdenoCD virus at Artomatic 2012

adenoCD virus

adenoCD virus

In the image below you can see how Forrest distinguishes the subunits around the five-fold icosahedral axis (pentons) from the other capsid subunits (hexons).

adenoCD virus

Forrest has made a number of virus constructions from computer parts, as described on this poster which is part of the exhibit.

adenoCD virus

Below is the computer virus transport module – a crate used to carry the sculpture to the exhibition.

adenoCD virus crate

I signed the guestbook – but there were no more virus cookies left.

Visit Forrest’s website to learn more about why and how he makes sculptures of viruses. A gallery of his sculptures can be found here.

adenoCD virus

Michele Banks‘ work was exhibited on the same floor. Michele is a painter and collage artist based in Washington, DC. Her pieces are based on scientific and medical themes. She is not a scientist, but loves and is fascinated by the natural world, especially at the microscopic level.

These photographs do not do her work justice; there are much better images on her website.

Petri dishes 7

Petri dishes 7 by Michele Banks

 

Love and Death: Viruses

Love and Death: Viruses by Michele Banks

Portrait of a human

Portrait of a human by Michele Banks

The next day I purchased ‘Beautiful But Deadly 4’, a watercolor painting of viruses (image below). Michele brought the painting to ASM headquarters where I was working, so I was able to bring it home. It’s a wonderful collage of viruses that would look great in the TWiV Studio (my office at Columbia University Medical Center).

Beautiful But Deadly 4 by Michele Banks

Beautiful But Deadly 4 by Michele Banks

Do you know other artists who create art based on microbes? Please add a comment so we can develop a list of these individuals here at virology blog.