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  • ASCB² Gallery at the 2013 ASCB Annual Meeting in New Orleans The ASCB crew did a stunning job hanging the images I sent for this years show.  I will post a map of the images as well as the artists in ...
    Posted Dec 17, 2013, 1:21 PM by Graham Johnson
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Mission
The Art and Science of Cell Biology (ASCB2) exhibits feature stunning large-format prints of molecular and cellular images created by artists, scientists, and scientific illustrators. In December of 2012, we showcased the first ASCB2 gallery in the Moscone Center's public foyers at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Annual meeting in San Francisco. We hosted several co-localized and related events at ASCB to engage both research and public audiences. In autumn of 2012, we plan to move the exhibit into a local art gallery and to attract larger audiences with research seminars targeted at public audiences that relate to some of the artwork on display.

By immersing a new audience in cellular and subcellular imagery without any attempt to overtly educate, we hope to reduce the relative visual and linguistic unfamiliarity of microscopic biology, slowly connecting the world of cells and molecules to daily experiences. 

The inspiration for this immersive approach stemmed from an experience that ASCB2 co-curator Graham Johnson had during a 2012 exhibition of his artwork in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Santa Fe team* that organized the third annual Art of Systems Biology and Nanoscience (ASB&N) event invited Johnson to hang his work in a small gallery as ASB&N's 2012 artist in residence. ASB&N hosted four research seminars, including a talk split by ASCB's 2012 president Ron Vale and Johnson in the same gallery space. The ASB&N show consisted of molecular illustrations enlarged and hung as fine art. The event drew art lovers, scientists, and curious passersby. Although aesthetics, composition, value, and color initially drew viewers to study any given piece, discussion inevitably moved to biological content and context. Conversations and theories often headed down bizarre paths, but scientists mixed into the room would overhear and steer these conversations or would answer questions asked from a motivated, rather than a captive, audience.

We recreated much of this experience at ASCB. Two mini-gallery walls featured 65 printed pieces representing the work of 9 contributing artists. The show was a great success and reached many biologists interested in incorporating visualization and visualization skills into their careers, but the location in a major convention center coupled with late advertising to limit the public audience.

With continues support and through self-funding mechanisms we hope to expand ASCB2 into an annual event and to better encourage public attendance. The project further seeks to branch each year's displays into local art galleries where the public can join researchers to appreciate the beauty of cells and molecules and delve deeper into biology by watching related seminars. We expect the events to create a fertile new ground for conversations about scientific visualization and a renewed appreciation of the beauty of cell biology that will eventually spread to the general public. 

We expect that, with repeated exposure to such events, viewers will gain familiarity with the forms of molecules and cells, and then acquire a language with which to associate those forms. Viewers will better understand the context of these images as an extension of their daily experiences and gain the motivation to go from asking What is it? to Why do I care? and perhaps even to How can I find out more?


*From UNM: Heather Armstrong, Elaine Bearer, Bill Collins, Janet Oliver and Ryan Tanner
 From LANL: Bill Hlavacek, David Morris and Antonya Sanders
 From First Mile Institute: Susan Ashford and Richard Lowenberg
 From 333 Montezuma Arts: Tom Tavelli and Marty TwoBulls