Fragile Memory, 2019
3-dimensional bead work on canvas. Made of seed beads and 6 mm crystals. Ready to hang. 13" x 13"
This work is based on an image of the hippocampus – the part of the brain that is responsible for forming new memories. But it is not just another section of immunostained tissue – rather than having the traditional set of 2 – 4 colors commonly used in microscopy, it is bursting with over a dozen colors! This delightful confetti comes from a “brainbow” mouse, which was genetically engineered to have each neuron labeled with a different color to permit for better tracing of connections, allowing scientists to delineate how different parts of the brain talk to each other.
Beyond coming from an exceptional microscopy image of mouse tissue, this work is also a part of the “Hope” series, featuring the (now traditional) single white jewel. Can you find it? If not, scroll down to the last image to see. It is the only cell body that is not depicted in a bright color here. This cell represents the fragile memory.
When I was in graduate school, a neighboring lab explored the mechanisms of memory formation and storage. While it has long been believed that formation of memory progresses from learning to long term storage to retrieval, the Alberini lab showed that every time a memory is recalled it becomes labile. This is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it allows us to continue learning and updating our understanding of the world as we acquire new information. On the other hand, each time a given memory is recalled, it becomes unstable, at the risk of being inaccurately modified or possibly even lost. The white jewel in this work represents a memory of a good time in our life that we would like to keep revisiting yet being able to preserve.