Are they alive?

Jessica Joy is an MFA candidate and experimenter extraordinaire at the School of Art and Design.

I was recently caught off guard during the opening reception of the first year M.F.A. show when I was asked whether or not 'they' are alive on multiple occassions. I had no idea that my audience would be so uncertain of the answer to this question, but I am delighted that they were.

As the weeks have flown by, the generations of my cells have run the gamut from being featured in short videos, the subject of biological photographs, 2D installations, and most recently the building blocks of 3D sculptures.

Since my last blog post I have made 3 videos. Two of them venture outside of the realm of glue in an attempt to satisfy an assignment for my graduate seminar entitled 'Prompt'. I may post a blog in the future if I follow up on this new line of inquiry, but for now I will stick to posting about my cells.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from the English Literature department came into my studio, started cutting up my cells and somehow we got to a point where we were scrutinizing the cells under a microscope while taking pictures and shooting videos of them.

Synthetic Cells is the most successful of those videos.


My favorite photo from this experimental session.


Still images from the Synthetic Cells video that I find particularly interesting.

After all of the experimentation I have been doing, I had to pick a direction to go in for my first year M.F.A. show. I thought about projecting a video, hanging photographs, installing a sculpture... and the list goes on. In preparation for the show I went into the Warren Robbins gallery and photographed potential spaces I could infect with my cells. At one point I was hooked on the idea of installing my work in a corner, so it would appear as if it was alive and had been growing there for months, but when I physically entered the space I was presented with a new idea. I decided that the large windows in the gallery would be the perfect site to take advatage of the material properties of my cells, such as the translucency.

I installed the cells on both sides of the window and built up the surface of the piece by piling up cells on top of cells to enhance the depth of the piece. During the installation I discovered that the cells and the translucent drawing I was making to accompany the cells, were casting shadows on the opposite wall in the hallway. At the opening of the show, I spoke to Jim Cogswell, a painting professor here in the school of Art & Design, and one of his comments was that people were walking into my piece. I was really excited to hear him say that because since I started painting I have always wanted to paint large enough to give people the chance to feel like they could walk into my paintings. This was before I knew about installation art.



This image on the right is an example of the space/boundary where my work seems to be stuck, between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional realms.

A few nights after the opening I came back to the site of my installation to facilitate its growth. Over the course of the night I discovered a process that allowed my work to become more sculptural. I started attaching the cells to each other before I installed them on the window, which freed me from the limitations of a vertical plane (the window).

After discovering this process I pushed it further to create a larger more intricate sculpture.


On Friday February 25th, I will be taking down the installation in the Warren Robbins Gallery, but I want to offer any student the opportunity to take some of my cells out of the gallery and transplant them out into the world. If you leave a comment on this blog I will leave a cell or two or three (an arrangement of cells) on the window for you to peel off and restick somewhere. I am asking you to put them on anything they will stick to and take a photo of where you end up putting them. Think about who you want your audience of people to be who will happen upon the cells. I will post a blog including all the pictures showcasing where the cells end up if I get enough participation. You can e-mail your photos to