Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brain Art Awards 2012

Last month I entered one of my artworks in the 2012 Brain Art Awards and I was thrilled to be selected for a Special Mention. The theme this year was Life, Pleasures and the Brain, so the artwork I chose to submit was Addiction, based on Dr Adam Hamlin's work with rats and cocaine addiction.

I went along to the exhibition opening night, where I met a number of the other artists, including the major prize winner, Trent Woods. You can visit the virtual gallery showcasing all the finalists and their work here; or join the facebook group to see pics of the exhibition opening night and keep up with more BrainArt Project news.

Thanks to Silvia and Relmi Damiano and the team for all their hard work. It really paid off!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Horses for courses

My recent visit to Charles Sturt University coincided with an experiment being carried out by a PhD student, Briony. She is researching the effects of kisspeptin, a protein that affects hormone production and may be able to be used to better control the breeding cycles of mares. Its whimsical name comes from Hershey's Kisses, because it was first identified in Hershey, Pennsylvania, also the home of the chocolate.

The horses used in this experiment have to have blood taken for testing every few hours, to monitor the levels of hormones. They are implanted with a cannula to make this easier for the scientists and less stressful for the horses. Dr Adam Hamlin greets one of the subjects with a friendly pat in the picture at left.

Briony obviously loves horses and talks gently to them as she works with Adam to take a blood sample.
After spinning the sample to separate the red blood cells from the plasma, the plasma is drawn off and frozen for later testing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

National Life Sciences Hub

I visited Charles Sturt University and Dr Adam Hamlin a week before the opening of the new National Life Sciences Hub, a brand new building for biological science teaching and research in which Dr Hamlin's lab would soon be located.
The teaching labs are hi-tech and gleaming, ready for the first students to come in and scribble their names all over the furniture.
A seating area outside the teaching labs has fabulous views over the canola fields and paddocks north of Wagga Wagga.
Another wing of the building houses the research labs, which have all sorts of hi-tech gadgetry such as confocal microscopes, three separate power systems and a back-up generator for the minus-eighty degree freezer rooms.
Just around the corner from the Life Sciences Hub is the most important building on the campus, the winery, where one can taste and buy Charles Sturt University wine from the cellar door.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Xylene swirls

My recent visit to Dr Adam Hamlin at Charles Sturt University inspired me to create new artworks based on the research Dr Hamlin is currently doing into the neurological effects of rye grass toxins on livestock. The image of slide preparation that inspired this work can be found in this blog post. (You can also see it in the picture at left.)
In the earlier blog post, I mentioned that I was fascinated by the oil-slick rainbows that swirled in the fluid as the fatty cell walls and extraneous matter dissolved off the slides. To try to capture the effect of the light breaking up into all the colours of the spectrum, I really overexaggerated the colours in the image to make them vibrant and contrasty.
Then I mentally divided the image into bands or stripes to create a rhythm of colour and texture. The partially complete work is shown below. Some of the stitches I have used, such as the feather stitch with French knots and the rows of chain stitch, also echo the rye grass that is behind the project. I've worked this one on pale blue silk to represent the blue protective lab coats, and the gorgeous country landscape outside the lab windows, rather than on black as most of my other works have been.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Art and About launch

Last Thursday night was the official launch of the exhibition Within You, Without You: Cells, Blood and Neurons for Art & About 2012. We had a fantastic turn out, with about 60 people crowding into the gallery and spilling into the courtyard where they were entertained by chanteuse Phoebe. This performance was followed by talks by the artists and a video presentation by Dr Adam Hamlin on his Alzheimer's research. The pictures above show, clockwise from top left: Phoebe and Mark perform; some of the guests; Fiona Davies talks about her work; Dr Hamlin's presentation keeping the audience spellbound.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Within You Without You: Cells, Blood and Neurons

This post is a quick reminder for those of you in the Sydney area that the official launch of our Art and About project is on tonight from 6pm at 6-8 Scott Street, Pyrmont. Please come if you can for artist and scientist talks, live jazz music and drinks and nibbles.

Yesterday evening I was sitting on my back deck, looking up at the branches of the jacaranda trees lit by the setting sun. It struck me once again how much repetition there is in nature: this pattern of branching twigs could be like mammary glands in a mouse, or veins in the human body, or neurons reaching out to make connections in a brain.