May 5, 2017

Artist plus researcher equals infinite inspiration at the Keck School of Medicine of USC

Barbara Kolo and Andy McMahon (Photo by Richard Carrasco)

By Cristy Lytal

What happens when you pair 14 artists with 14 USC biomedical researchers? The answer is currently on display at the Hoyt Gallery on the Health Sciences Campus of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The exhibition “Artist & Researcher” showcases the results of these creative collaborations. Barbara Kolo’s abstract representation of the kidney hangs beside one of the images from the laboratory of Andy McMahon that inspired the work. Andrea Bogdan’s vivid series of colorful glass panels depicts a special type of cartilage cell that plays a vital role in repairing bone injuries, according to recent research from the laboratory of Francesca Mariani. Cybele Rowe’s smooth white sculpture, entitled “Tau,” evokes proteins that can malfunction in the brain, along with less tangible aspects of Alzheimer’s disease, studied by the laboratory of Tiffany Chow. Other artworks focus on research about diseases ranging from melanoma to multiple sclerosis.

“There may be some ways that artists can capture what we’re doing that we, as scientists, are not able to explain to the public,” said Amy Firth, assistant professor of medicine, and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, who was paired with artist Zeina Baltagi.

Other artist-researcher pairs commented on the parallel processes of scientific curiosity and artistic inquiry, and reflected on how their collaborations had changed the ways they both conceptualized their work.

“My artist’s representation of our conversations allowed my lab colleagues and me to see and describe aspects of our research in a new way,” said Marilena Melas, a PhD student in the laboratory of Stephen Gruber.

“Artist & Researcher” is the latest in a series of exhibitions curated by the Keck School’s artist-in-residence, Ted Meyer.

“Thanks to the vision and generosity of our Dean Rohit Varma, we brought in Ted Meyer,” said Pamela Schaff, director of the Humanities, Ethics/Economics, Art, and Law (HEAL) Program. “And we reimagined the mission of the Hoyt Gallery as a venue to foster understanding between patients and future doctors.”

At the opening reception, Meyer shared his deeply personal connection to the transformative impact of medical research.

“I have Gaucher disease, which is a rare genetic illness, and I am alive because of the research done at NIH,” he said. “I went to NIH when I was 5 to give bone marrow for a treatment that didn’t happen until I was 42. So I know you researchers are in it for the long haul, and I think you guys are fantastic. So thank you all.”

Hoyt Gallery is located in the basement of the Keith Administration Building on the Health Sciences Campus. The exhibit will run through August 15th.

Scientist-Artist pairs:

Lilyana Amezcua, MD, MS + Kerry Kugelman

Tiffany Chow, MD + Cybele Rowe

Vinay Duddalwar, MD, FRCR + Michael McCall

Amy Firth, PhD + Zeina Baltagi

Laurel M. Fisher, PhD + LuAnn Roberto

Gino K. In, MD, MPH + Olesya Volk

Elina Kari, MD + Jamie Perlman, MA

Peter Kuhn, PhD + Leah Shane Dixon

Francesca V. Mariani, PhD + Andrea Bogdan

Andy McMahon, PhD, FRS + Barbara Kolo

Marilena Melas, MSc + Shula Singer Arbel

Michael E. Selsted, MD, PhD + David Lovejoy

Soma Sahai-Srivastava, MD + Qathryn Brehm

Leslie J. Tarlow, MSN, RN, GNP-BC, MSCN + Susan Trachman