In a Time of Change

ITOC: Microbial Worlds

ITOC Microbial Worlds PosterPeer through the lens of the arts to discover the hidden world of microscopic organisms at In a Time of Change: Microbial Worlds. Fourteen artists and writers magnify the microbiome in this collaborative exhibit sponsored by the arts-humanities-science consortium, In a Time of Change.

The exhibit includes original art works and writings by Alaskan artists Susan Campbell, Annie Duffy, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, Jessie Hedden, Eric Henderson, Mariah Henderson, Margo Klass, Debbie Clarke Moderow, Jennifer Moss, Ree Nancarrow, Gail Priday, and Sara Tabbert, as well as San Diego artist Charlotte Bird and Brooklyn artist Stephanie Rae Dixon. Mary Beth Leigh, an Associate Professor of Microbiology at UAF, directed the project.

Microbial Worlds is the culmination of 16 months of collaborative work by visual artists, writers, and scientists on the topic of microorganisms. Microbes are the most numerous and diverse organisms on the planet; they include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae and viruses. While some cause disease and contribute to climate change, others are responsible for promoting human health, removing toxins from the environment, and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Under the leadership of Leigh, artists met monthly for 16 months. With Leigh and other scientists, they learned about microbiology through lectures, laboratory activities, and field trips to Toolik Field Station, Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, and the UAF trails to learn about mushrooms and to view microbes frozen in ice on Smith Lake. Artists were also loaned microscopes in support of their independent research. The artists interacted with over 30 scientists through the course of the program, ranging from infectious disease microbiologists to ecosystem ecologists.

Visual artists in the program then developed works inspired by the world of microorganisms, including their visual beauty and many roles in human and environmental health. The artistic media represented includes painting, sculpture, tile, printmaking, textile art, artist books, writing, and multimedia works. Memoir writer Debbie Clarke Moderow and poet/artist Susan Campbell wrote pieces inspired by the microbial world. Together they gave a literary reading at Well Street Art Co.  The First Friday opening, February 3, 5-8 pm, also featured live DNA analysis and dance as part of a multimedia installation focusing on decomposition.

Explore the Microbial Worlds project at the links below: