New Orleans-based artist and scientist Hunter Cole produces work that is inspired by science, but lives as art. Cole, who holds a PhD in genetics, reinterprets science through art.
Internationally recognized, Cole’s art includes paintings, photography, digital art, and living art using bioluminescent bacteria. Cole is a member of the faculty of Loyola University New Orleans.
In addition to her PhD, Hunter Cole holds a Master's degree in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California-Berkeley. During her time at the University of Wisconsin, Cole created a course entitled Biology Through Art. The course provided opportunities for students to create art while working in a biology laboratory. Cole also successfully implemented the Biology Through Art curriculum at Loyola University Chicago and an online version at Loyola University New Orleans.
Cole completed several photographic series using bioluminescent bacteria. Entitled, Living Light: Photographs by the Light of Bioluminescent Bacteria including Living Drawings, Bioluminescent Portraits and Installations, Bioluminescent Weddings, and Bioluminescent Nudes, the works were shown in a solo exhibition at the ARC Gallery in Chicago in January 2018. More recently she has photographed a series of Bioluminescent Dancers.
On October 10, 2019 Hunter Cole created an interactive installation of live bacterial drawings on the walls and costumes of dancers filling a theatre at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center in Arabi, LA entitled GLOW: an Illuminated Living Art Experience. A documentary was filmed on this exhibit and the whole process to create it that will be released in 2021.
Cole’s work also includes a permanent installation commissioned in 2008 by Loyola University Chicago for its Lakeshore campus. The large public art installation, entitled, Biological Domains, is comprised of 14 paintings, which depict specific areas in biology. The installation incorporates LED lighting timed to create changing effects in the overall appearance of the installation throughout the day.
In 2015, Cole completed a residency at the prestigious SymbioticA laboratory at the University of Western Australia in Perth. SymbioticA is the first research lab of its kind that provides opportunities for artists and researchers to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department. While at SymbioticA, Cole began work on her project, The Hidden Suffering of Women with Endo, which focuses on endometriosis and its effects of women living with the disease. Endometriosis is a common but often misunderstood condition whereby endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus in other parts of the body. Endometriosis can result in extreme pain and infertility. One in ten women have endometriosis.
Hunter Cole’s art has been exhibited internationally including: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and the Czech Republic.
Cole has presented numerous seminars on art and science including such locations as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), the American Museum of Natural History (New York), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dialogue Between Science and Art Workshop in Hluboka, Czech Republic, and SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia.
Additionally, Hunter Cole co-authored, “Art and Genetics” with Joe Davis, Dana Boyd and Marek Wieczorek, published in the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (ELS). She has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including such publications as: Science, The Scientist, the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Muy Interesante (Spain), Le Monde, and Beaux Arts magazine (France).
Hunter Cole Artist Statement
"Art and science have always been mutually inclusive for me. As a practicing artist and scientist, my approach to art incorporates science through the use of creative and innovative techniques and methodology. I reinterpret science as art. I am also intrigued with collaborative processes in art.
During my artistic career I have worked in various media including painting, drawing, digital media, video, music & sound, and multi-media installations.
In 2003 I began to incorporate the use of photography with my love of drawing to capture images created with bioluminescent bacteria – bacteria which produces its own light. My art reflects the technological and artistic challenges presented through working with living organisms.
More recently, I have expanded the application and use of bioluminescent light to more complex works including figurative compositions (portraits; nudes). Some of my newer work depicts my keen interest in surreal imagery and symbolism.
Science serves as a vehicle for expressing my creativity and artistry. Art serves as a motivation for me to interpret our living world.
My art continues to fuel my desire to explore, research, investigate, and discover new and different ways of expression. I expect it to be ever present, and forever evolving."
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