Jerri Bartholomew  

Science Studies



For nearly four decades I have researched an enigmatic group of fish parasites, the myxozoans. Relatives of free-living jellyfish, sea anemones and corals, myxozoans have shed most of the traits of their larger cousins in favor of adaptations that allow them to become parasites. Thousands of species exist, probably as many or more than there are species of fish, and their adaptations are unique, deadly, and often beautiful. Because these parasites are about the size of a human blood cell, this beauty isn’t visible without the aid of a microscope.

I began these science studies in glass about 20 years ago. Like my research, they have evolved as I learned different techniques and experimented with different forms of artistic abstraction. Equally interesting to me are the tools we use to make scientific discoveries, and how these have changed. As a microbiologist, glass microscope slides are the tools of our trade, but every time I sit down at a microscope it is with the anticipation that something interesting or beautiful will be revealed. The tools of our profession continue to evolve, but their purpose remains to understand and take advantage of beneficial microbes, and to find ways to combat those that are dangerous.




Under the Microscope

The parasites I study are invisible to the naked eye and thus a microscope is an important tool in my research. I find microscope slides themselves to be magical; small pieces of glass that hold an invisible surprise that changes with magnification.


Under the Microscope: Specimen 17

Screenprinted, fused and sandblasted glass with found objects, 2016


Under the Microscope: Specimen 63

Screenprinted, fused and sandblasted glass with found objects, 2016


Under the Microscope: Specimen 63

Screenprinted, fused and sandblasted glass with found objects, 2016


Parasite

Under the microscope, the parasites I study are beautifully complex. To evoke the image of an isolated organism seen through a lens, I etched the parasite forms into glass rounds and applied enamel to create the feel of a scientific illustration. Mounting the rounds in discarded gears evokes looking through a lens.


Ceratonova

Etched and enameled fused glass, welded metal frame, 2017


Myxidium

Etched and enameled fused glass, welded metal frame, 2017


Sidlickiella

Etched and enameled fused glass, welded metal frame, 2017


Trichodina

Etched and enameled fused glass, welded metal frame, 2017


Spores

I used pate de verre, a glass casting process involving application of a paste of finely ground glass to a plaster mold, to reimagine the two valve shells that make up a myxozoan spore. This method allows for controlled use of color, but also of texture, giving the pieces an organic feel. One half of the spore shows the outer shell surface; the other half shows the internal stinging cells and nuclei.


Ceratonova 1

Pate de verre, 2020


Ceratonova 2

Pate de verre, 2020



Myxidium

Pate de verre, 2020


Abstracted

The graphic swim casting method, developed by Jeffrey Sarmiento, allows for controlled flow of screen-printed images. I have used this method to further abstract these parasites, using data from my own research on parasite life cycles and genomes. Abstracted, the gene sequence blurs over images that suggest both the parasite and the fish it infects.


Myxidium Abstracted

Screenprinted and cast glass, 2019


Plankton

These microscopic organisms exist in the ocean, freshwater and even the air, propelled by currents and winds. Exquisitely varied in their forms and functions, they form the base of our foodweb, and thus life itself.


Plankton

Cast glass, welded metal, 2012


Planktos

Sand casting with inclusions, forged metal, 2003


In a Drop of Water

Screenprinted, fused and glass, 2012


Tools of Science

The tools of science are essential for discovery, and they can also produce complex and beautiful images. As science evolves, some of these tools have been lost, replaced with more efficient methods. The beautiful images captured on glass plates are now digital; agar plates are replaced by streams of genetic sequences; complex antibody reaction patterns are now represented with numbers from computerized scanners. Through these pieces, I attempt to tell small stories of discovery using tools that have been supplanted.


Bacterial Colony

Fused glass, found objects, 2008


Vaccine

Fused glass, found objects, 2008


Electron Microscopy

Fused glass, found objects, 2008