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Gel Electrophoresis Art

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  • Description: Electrophoresis harnesses an electric current run through agarose gel to separate DNA into bands. During my experience in the lab,
    I was amazed by how beautiful loading dye looked as it was separated out onto gel, creating stubtle bands of blue, cyan and magenta. Seeing the potential of electrophoresis to separate colors based on particle size, I decided to experiment with it as an art making process. In place of DNA, I added more dye which resulted in an exciting intensity and variation of color that I had not seen before. This body of work displays ideas regarding the connection I have to my mothers mentorship and the genetic origin of cellular energy coming from ones maternal lineage.

    Human cells have a nucleus containing a set of chromosomes that control almost all aspects of bodily function. An exception are the mitochondria, which have their own smaller ring of DNA. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the cell. They generate ATP, the fuel that runs the bodily functions controlled by nuclear DNA. Male sperm do not contain many mitochondria, so mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through the female egg. Any beneficial mutations that occur in a males mitochondria are lost when he dies. All beneficial mutations have developed and have been passed on through women for all of time. In other words, thank your mother for your energy.

    My mothers great love of art, more specifically batik and graphic design, has given me the confidence and skill to enjoy these mediums as well. In this series, the batik resist process inspired my use of acrylic letterforms whereby my mothers textile dyes were used for color. The Northern Michigan University Biology Lab generously allowed me to use lab equipment.

    Science has always fed my curiosity. Combining art and science in this body of work has allowed me to pay tribute to the creative process that is inherent in both disciplines.

    -Barbara Kerkove
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