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Mariposa

2020
9 in x 9 in x 14 in (23 cm x 23 cm x 35.5 cm)
Watercolor, 3d printed nylon, butterflies, mixed media

In collaboration with The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute  

“Mariposa” is a new body of work focused on gene-editing in butterflies, produced in collaboration with scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The STRI research team has used CRISPR gene-editing techniques—injecting the butterfly eggs with DNA-editing RNA and proteins—to modify the patterning of butterfly wings. This work of art is inspired by their research. The scientific paper by scientist Carolina Concha and her co-authors was published late in 2019, and data provided by her findings feature in the artwork. The body of work will highlight the science and ethics behind gene editing, and the intimidating beauty of gene manipulation.

During my time at STRI I witnessed the butterfly eggs being injected with the gene editing virus and the results of manipulating the gene targeting the black areas on the wings. The outcome of the experiment was butterfly wings resembled a watercolor painting of spilled colors in an asymmetrical pattern. In this sculpture I capture the mutation in actual watercolor as well as pin the non-mutant specimens for comparison.

Special Thanks to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and DinaLab. And to the wonderful people that made this all happen  Krzysztof Kozak, Carolina Concha, Andrew Quitmeyer, and Remi Mauxion.