Creating art using the STEAM method

Last weekend, I mostly finished sewing the first layer of yellow rondelle beads.  In the original microscopy image, the cell nuclei were colored bright blue, due to being labeled with Hoechst stain, which labels DNA.  In Darcy’s version of the image, she switched this color to pale yellow, which makes them look more delicate and maybe a bit sad. The vast majority of the nuclei do not show cell staining around them (light blue in Darcy’s version), suggesting that they are most likely the remnants of dead cells.   This afterthought makes me feel like the pale yellow color is even more fitting.

from_microscope_to_beads
From the microscope to the first bead layer

After creating this “lawn” of atrophied cells, I began to think about how I would like to depict that ones that have survived.  First of all, I wanted the living cells to be raised above the surface, similar to the butterflies in Joel Amit’s work I posted two weeks ago.  This is where I faced a major challenge. I intended to use medium sized beads for cell bodies, cover them with a pattern of small seed beads and follow Sally Curcio’s method of elevating these structures on pins (see the post form two weeks ago).  Developing this technique required me to delve into the T and E parts of STEAM: Technology and Engineering, as well as some level of Math. I ended up spending the whole week performing what I jokingly called “pilot experiments”, which might be referred to as studies in art or prototypes in engineering.  

None of the methods suited what I was trying to portray.  On Saturday, Darcy, Kate and I had our next Skype call, where I received some helpful suggestions on how to attach fully elevated structures to a canvas.  The very next day, I rushed off to the bead store with an idea of my own that merged their suggestions with some elements I was thinking about before. The materials I was initially looking to get turned out to cost an arm and leg, so I had to compromise and change my plan again.  

The set of pictures below shows the series of “experiments” I performed to determine the optimal method for creating the cell bodies, before arriving at my final version, which is shown on the white background on the bottom.  The background has a stain, because I used my daughter’s old canvas to try to prop it up before risking damaging my own.

It took me a long time to decide on whether I should stay true to the colors on Darcy’s image, or if I can put some bright blue Hoechst stain back in.  Quite honestly, I ended up doing it primarily due to being unable to find the right shape stones in colors that would match. But I guess this color can serve as an additional factor that distinguishes the living cells.  As you may have guessed, the large photo on the right shows how the whole cell came out. This is a first of many.

Cell_body_study
Cell body pilot study

This week I am on to the next challenge:  if propping these structures up requires me to stick wires through the canvas into a supportive layer of Styrofoam that I will attach in the back, how do I do that without losing my ability to keep sewing other elements onto the canvas?….

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