Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Influence of Contemporary Art and Suzanne Anker

I have been reading articles written by Suzanne Anker and looking through all of her artwork:
Suzanne Anker's Artwork

Ms. Anker is a visual artist and theorist working at the intersection of art and the biological sciences. Her books include The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age, co-authored with the late sociologist Dorothy Nelkin, published in 2004 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Visual Culture and Bioscience, co-published by University of Maryland and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Her writings have appeared in Art and America, Seed Magazine, Nature Reviews Genetics, Art Journal, Tema Celeste and M/E/A/N/I/N/G. Her work has been the subject of reviews and articles in the New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Nature and has been cited by Barbara Maria Stafford, Donna Haraway and Martin Kemp in their texts. She has been a speaker at the Royal Society in London, Cambridge University, Yale University, the London School of Economics, the Max-Planck Institute, Universitiy of Leiden, the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Banff Art Center any many others. Chairing SVA’s Fine Arts Department in NYC since 2005, Ms. Anker continues to interweave traditional and experimental media in her department’s new digital initiative.

Malignant Nerve Peripheral Sheath Tumor
This prompted me to spend two weeks studying MRI scans, tumor stains and chromosome detailing. The first image is an example of a malignant nerve peripheral sheath tumor and similar to what I have been looking at. When just looked at without knowing what it is, it just is a series of biomorphic blobs swirling around each other, creating interesting patterns. The tumor is of course, the big one in the mid to upper left part of the picture plane.

David - NF1 - Netherlands
I have done about 7 watercolor portraits of people with NF since my return from Boston. The one I am uploading is the one I just finished of a man with NF who lives in the Netherlands and granted me permission to use his likeness for my MFA explorations.

On my Many Faces of NF page, I paint any person with NF who will donate to the Children's Tumor Foundation or NF Inc. or their local NF Chapter. So, these portraits are simply my way of saying thank you to all those who continue to raise awareness about NF.

I am now trying to widen the scope of the portraits to start making them read as an entire visual unit. I was struck by how my portraits "read" when they all are condensed into little thumbnail size pics on Facebook. I liked the idea of seeing so many people at one time, rather than just an isolated portrait. So, I am going to start playing around with this idea and quickly did this little sketch of what it might look like to start incorporating the two elements.

The preparatory here to the right  is just one idea to try and visually unify the portraits I've done while still making them visually interesting and not necessarily blatantly about NF. The thought is to print out real prints on photo paper and somehow paint these bold patterns over the top. I'm not sure I want quite this many faces as it seems to get a little cluttered, visually. After I did this sketch, I realized that I do not like all the white space going on in the background either. And I would rather the portraits look a little more organic than solid rectangles.

I have been working with this idea and using my prep sketch as a starting point. I got 5" x 7" prints made of my portraits and adhered them down onto an acrylic still life painting. The painting was done on masonite years ago and I had always thought it was just mediocre, but had never bothered to work on it anymore. It seemed like the perfect ground to paint over, but instead of applying gesso over it, I prefer painting over old paintings because they provide interesting background elements. The initial board looks like this. If you look closely you can see the drapery and cow skull in the background. It took some time to just layout the photos and wait for the sealant to dry. Once it does, I will start painting over the whole board.
I let it dry overnight. Then I then took mostly alizarin crimson, permanent rose, and dioxidine purple with lots of titanium white as well to start painting the malignant nerve peripheral sheath tumor. I chose seventeen faces to be in the background, partly for design purposes and partly because NF1 is located on Chromosome 17. As evidenced by the glare from my camera, it's is very wet. I will wait about a day before I go back and put in finer details of the white and dark areas of the cells.
I spent this evening, painting in the white parts and taking the tumor red blobs over at least one eye for each individual. Besides being a design element, optic gliomas are expected with people who have NF. Optic glioma is just a fancy way of saying a tumor on the optic nerve. Most of the time the tumor will just sit on the nerve, but if it crawls its way down the nerve to where both eye nerves cross, it can lead to blindness. Sometimes that can happen and sometimes the tumor just sits on the nerve and doesn't do anything, similar to a mole. It's there, the doctors can see it, but if it's not growing or moving, they leave it alone.

1 comment:

David said...

I really like this project, It has brought me to the idea to set up a Many Faces of NF project, but with my one twist. I can't tell more, because it is an idea I have to work it out!!

Rachel you are the best, I can't say it enough I like your work and your personalty.

I continue to follow you, and share your work.

Take care and God blesses