Biological Science Art Gallery

Microorganisms © 2021

by Cheryl Safren

Funded through the Ohio Percent for Art Program
Owned by Miami University

 

The "Chemistry on Copper" artwork in Pearson Hall was created by artist Cheryl Safren and depicts a variety of unicellular microorganisms. One can visit Pearson Hall in person to view the 22 framed round panels displayed on the first and second floors. Below each round artwork is a copper plaque containing the name and QR code identifying the microorganism. When scanned, the respective QR code accesses background information found here. You can also browse the gallery via the web using the sidebar navigation.

Cheryl Safren, a New York-based artist, employed chemical reactions in the creation of each of these panels. Changing color through reaction, crystallization, fusing, and solidification are a few of the ways chemistry informs this art. Some of the processes employed produce coarse and grainy textures, while others produce shiny or gossamer ones. Some of the colors generated on these copper panels are known as interference colors and are provided by a transparent oxide film deposited on the metal surface. The colors develop when part of the light striking the oxide surface reflects, and part passes through the film before reflecting off the metal below. When the delayed light reappears and combines with the surface light waves, they may either reinforce or cancel each other, generating a specific hue. The thickness of the oxide film dictates the color.

Every insight, each kernel of knowledge adds to our understanding of the life sciences. Reverence for nature and awe at what goes on within the walls of Pearson Hall drew the artist to this project.