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Press Release for Living Drawings Exhibition

High Resolution Images for the Media for the Living Drawings Exhibition

High Resolution Images for the Media for the Radioctive Biohazard Exhibtion and a Photo of the Artist

Exhibit Web Site:

“Living Drawings” is an exhibition of recent works by Chicago artist Hunter O'Reilly on view at LUMA — Loyola University Museum of Art, March 12 through June 4, 2006. LUMA is located at 820 North Michigan Avenue / Chicago, IL 60611. The artist, whose background combines both science and art, has assembled a series of photos of living bacterial drawings created on seaweed nutrient agar in petri dishes, along with works on paper and digital photography collages.

The bioluminescent bacteria create its’ own light via expression of the lux genes. Hunter O’Reilly creates controlled line drawings using bioluminescent bacteria. The bacteria then grow in the host environment. Bacteria become collaborators in the art as it grows. First appearing with bright light, bacteria in the drawing are photographed as it uses up available nutrients, gradually dying-off over a two-week period.

The artist takes advantage of the bacteria growing to equal brightness along the entire line drawing. Regions where most of the bacterial growth occurs die the fastest because there are limited nutrient resources in the seaweed nutrient agar. The seaweed nutrient agar holding limited resources serves as an analogy for how we use resources within individuals, families, communities, and the world. As the bacteria die the drawing changes and slowly fades into complete darkness.

Also included in this exhibition are recent works on paper drawn spontaneously while listening to scientific seminars. These spontaneous drawings include notes and symbolism used playfully by the artist to create full, sometimes surreal, well-worked compositions most often completed in a one-hour period. These drawings reflect relationships between intellect and environment. The artist approaches the expression of ideas through blending art and science as a source for new perspectives, understanding, and ultimately new meaning about each discipline. “Living Drawings,” interprets science as art.

An internationally shown artist and experienced geneticist, Hunter O'Reilly reinterprets science as art through abstractions, digital art and installations. O’Reilly’s art has been on the cover of thirteen scientific journals such as Nature Biotechnology (July 2005), Nature Genetics (April 2004) and Nature Review Genetics (September 2001, August 2001 and January 2001). O’Reilly has created a course, Biology through Art , where students have the opportunity to create innovative artworks in a biology laboratory. Dr. O’Reilly is teaching this course at Loyola University Chicago in the Spring 2006 semester. She holds a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. O’Reilly also teaches Biology and Genetics at Loyola University Chicago.


Interpreting Science as Art: Bioart and Living Drawings
Gallery Talk by Hunter O’Reilly
Sunday, April 2, 3-4pm at the LUMA Auditorium

Hunter O’Reilly will discuss interpreting science as art through the creation of living artworks, abstractions, digital art and installations confronting issues related to biotechnology in our culture. O'Reilly teaches at Loyola University Chicago.

Spontaneous Drawing Guided by Hunter O’Reilly
Sunday, May 21, 2pm at LUMA

Families will be guided to draw spontaneously inspired by their own spirituality including activities such as drawing to music, drawing with your eyes closed and drawing based on themes from the microscopic world.  Living bacterial drawings will also be present to observe.


Radioactive Biohazard: Reinterpreting Biotechnology as Art

"Let My Family Live! Portrait of Randolfe Wicker, the First Human Cloning Activist,"
digital, Hunter O'Reilly, Ph.D., 2001

Radioactive Biohazard High Resolution Images
A selection of high resolution images for the media to download.

November 18, 2002

Exhibit Radioactive Biohazard to show at U. Michigan and U. Wisconsin


Exhibit Web Site:

Radioactive Biohazard, a controversial art installation by Dr. Hunter O'Reilly, will show at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Porter Butts Gallery, Madison, Wisconsin, Jan. 24 - Feb. 22, 2003 with an opening reception on Friday, Jan. 24, 7-9pm. This installation explores sensitive and topical themes involving biotechnology and genetics. The media used include an interpretation of a genetics lab bench, digital art incorporating microscopic images of deadly diseases, such as ebola and anthrax; and artwork incorporating biomorphic imagery to explore themes such as human cloning and stem cell research. Dr. O'Reilly also collaborated with Electric Eye Neon to create sculptures with animal bones and neon.

Radioactive Biohazard reflects Dr. O'Reilly's compelling ability to synthesize art and science, reflecting her background as both an internationally shown artist and also, Ph.D. graduate in genetics from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. O'Reilly's career teaching both biology and art at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside reflects this unusual combination: "Whether it is through art or science, once a person's imagination has been turned on, knowledge and understanding will follow." Radioactive Biohazard is a step towards triggering more imaginations. Dr. O'Reilly's artwork has been featured in over twenty publications including several international scientific journal covers such as Nature Reviews Genetics and Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

"Too many people have irrational fears of biotechnology," says Dr. O'Reilly. "Human cloning, stem cell research, and genetic profiling will soon be as common as X-rays, MRI's, and chemotherapy, which were all initially demonized." During Dr. O'Reilly's recent lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she underscored the need for scientists to bridge the gap between the public's flawed perception of biotechnology, and the real world benefits biotechnology has delivered: "Without scientists working to share their perspective, it is too easy for Albert Einstein to be mistaken for Dr. Frankenstein."

Dr. O'Reilly's exhibit is sponsored by the University of Michigan's Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, which aims to foster scholarly and public debate about the difficult ethical questions raised by developments in the life sciences and to better understand how those discoveries are affecting thinking and activities in all spheres of human life.

Cosponsors of the exhibit at the University of Michigan are the Department of Human Genetics; Public Health Genetics Program; Gifts of Art, University of Michigan Health System; Health Science Scholars Program; the Life Sciences Institute; Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Artist Series, the School of Art and Design; Program in Culture, Health and Medicine; the Science, Technology and Society Program; the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program; the Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program; and Students Exploring the Life Sciences and Society.

The Puffin Foundation, Fisher Scientific, Fotodyne and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Cultures and Communities Program have also provided support for Radioactive Biohazard.

Jan. 24 - Feb. 22, 2003
Opening Reception: Friday, January 24, 7-9pm
Porter Butts Gallery
University of Wisconsin-Madison

800 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608-262-7592
Hours: Daily 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Free and open to the public

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