LUKE JERRAM’S BIOLOGY
By Elizabeth Patterson
Someone who is colorblind is probably the last person you would expect to be an artist. But that’s exactly what British Luke Jerram is. Jerram works mainly in installations, performance artwork and sculpture. His whimsical “Play Me, I’m Yours” series involves multiple pianos in various different locations around one city for anyone to play, and another popular installation was “Park and Slide”, a giant water slide for guests to slide down on located on Park Street in Bristol that raised money for the Frank Water Foundation. His performance piece “Sky Orchestra” consists of 7 hot air balloons outfitted with sound systems that fly over a city at daybreak, meant to influence the slumber and dreams of the undisturbed residents below. But perhaps Jerram’s best-known works are his “Glass Microbiology” series, a selection of which will be on display at his exhibit at the Heller Gallery.
E. coli, Malaria and HIV are not diseases anyone seeks out or would be thrilled to have. Yet Jerram’s glass-blown sculptures of these bacteria as well as others are highly-sought after, owned in museums and private collections around the world, including a permanent collection at the Wellcome Collection, a medical museum in London. The colorless glass sculptures are intricately detailed, and truthfully, beautiful, presenting a conflicting set of emotions between what they look like and what they represent. To create these works, Jerram teamed up with virologists and specialized glass blowers to get an exact representation of these deadly diseases. Polarizingly beautiful works of smallpox, the avian flu, HIV, Ebola and a few unique “mutations” are on display at his exhibit.
Also on view are a few of his “Chandelier” works, which, true to their name, are chandeliers, built out of solar radiometers. Instead of a simple switch or even a clap-on clap-off feature, these light fixtures are solar powered. What look like tiny spinwheels or weathervanes shimmer as the sunlight hits them, and change in pace throughout the day according to changes in the natural light. The chandeliers also transcend the optical, becoming an auditory experience as well as the spinning interiors quietly clink together.
Luke Jerram’s incredible glasswork will be on view at the Heller Gallery in New York until August 28, 2015. Don’t miss the chance to experience the beauty of biology.