My current work, BOLD, utilizes two-dimensional codes to link the viewer to the science behind the art. By scanning one of my sculptures, for example a butterfly collected in Dr. Janzen's ACG Costa Rica project
With this series of artwork, BOLD, an acronym for the Barcode of Life Database, I bring each specimen and its viewer to the BOLD database: the same database which houses portions of the Smithsonian's digitized genetic collections.
I am an artist, not a scientist, and my knowledge of DNA barcoding is simple. If I say to you, "O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?" Likely, you identify the line with Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. Or you may bypass the play's title all together and jump straight to its author, William Shakespeare. Regardless of where you end up, with just seven words from a work containing many thousand, you are accurately directed to the one and only place from whence the lines emanated.
As I understand DNA barcoding, a short 680 base-pair sequence, represented by letters A C T G, allows one to discern the organism which it inhabits. Barcode technology thus transforms how science determines what species are present in a specific ecosystem, and how, collectively, they surround us on Earth.
The seven words from Shakespeare are analogous to approximately 680 DNA base-pairs buried among millions in the genome; the single play's title, analogous to the one species among millions more we know (or don't). Through a short genetic sequence, life's barcode, we can now accurately digitally distinguish organisms without going through the long and sometimes inaccurate process of visually comparing similar traits in an attempting to know--name--our specimen.
Also encoded in these base-pairs are the shared and unique histories that may trace a specific organism through its evolutionary lineage. Those base pairs in common between organisms suggest a shared past, with differences in sequences pointing to unique and divergent histories.
These identities and histories--exploring the intersecting and overlapping genetic barcodes from various regions of our planet--drive my interest and my art. Developing an understanding of the commonalities among these vastly different environments, I tell stories through my work that will inform and educate my audience to the marvels of science and the natural world. I aim to inspire my viewers--you--to draw these comparisons, and realize the ways even our own backyards are connected to this global web of life.