visualizing the invisible

viruses, 1989-92

"In the 1980s, many of our friends and artists were dying of AIDS. We felt compelled to visualize our confusion and sorrow, and it seemed logical to visualize the AIDS virus and combine the sculpture with metaphorical symbols to express our feelings.  Based on available data that was 85% accurate at the time, a computer rendering of the AIDS virus was juxtaposed with a CT scan of a real patient named Messiah who died of the disease.  The emotional, scientific, and artistic success of our work with visualizing AIDS inspired us to continue working with scientists. Some of the exceptional scientists were T. J. O’Donnell, as well as Arthur Olson and David Goodsell from The Scripps Research Institute.  Feature Gallery, directed by the late Hudson, first showed these pieces in Chicago and then in Soho, New York.  He was a true champion of the work. Never before had a gallery shown scientific content like the AIDS virus.”  

"The images have a certain polish, a scientific sleekness, and seem to radiate out into the viewers' space. It is difficult not to like what you see before you. But then you find out what is pictured, that it is an image of the AIDS virus, and the contrast between beauty and the horror of the plague confounds you."

-Robert Duffy, "Getting The Message: Knowledge Distilled”, St. Louis Post Dispatch, September 19, 1993

The selection of viral imagery featured here was timely when it was first created, exploring the structure of diseases like AIDS, polio, papilloma, HIV, and the common cold and flu.  While each virus was distinctive, they all shared a common thread of being anti-forces of nature the scientific community needed to medically contain and overcome within our society. These seminal collaborations with innovative research scientists led to later scientific visualization PHSCologrms commissioned by NASA, Picker International, the National Institutes of Health, and the Smithsonian Institution, culminating in the Fermilab Residency in 2016.  In light of today’s present challenges, (art)n’s foray into visualizing the invisible nature of a virus has taken on new meaning and metaphor as we all become stakeholders in the health of our immunity and our social well being together.  A virus like COVID-19 penetrates through bodily weaknesses that when successful, can create vulnerability, death and destruction in its wake.  As we continue to co-create a new mixed reality together where all can heal and thrive, we will transform our world and ourselves into a better place than we were before–with compassion, creativity, community, meaningful connection, and light.  

Polio ii

A computer rendered image of the virus that causes polio. It shows how four different types of protein ,molecules (shown in blue, yellow, red, and green) come tougher to form the capsid, or the outer shell of the virus particle.  There are sixty copies of each of these molecules in the complete shell.  Some of the proteins are left out of its image so you can see the inside of the shell.   

The polio virus is too small to be seen with an ordinary microscope.  The three-dimensional structure was created using a special technique of X-ray crystallography to a 2.9 angstrom resolution by Jim Hogle and co-workers.  ©1990 Arthur J. Olson.

Polio II, 1989-90

Ellen Sandor & (art)n:  Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

adenovirus

A computer rendered image of the adenovirus, which causes a flu-like infection.  In underdeveloped countries of the world, it is one of the leading cause of death in young children.  At the outer surface of the virus is a transparent blue shell, the inner core resembles a blue-green ball.  The protein of the virus is shown in blue and a red icosahedron highlights the icosahedral nature of the coat.  The putative genetic material is shown in cyan, inside the protein coat.  The exterior of the virus has the symmetry of an icosahedron, an object with twenty triangular faces.  An icosahedron is shown inside with pink sticks to highlight this symmetry. 

The adenovirus is too small to be seen with an ordinary light microscope.  This image was created with data collected by means of a powerful electron microscope collected by Roger Burnett and Phoebe Stewart Hexem of the Wistar Institute. 

©1990 David Goodsell and Arthur J. Olson, Scripps Research Institute. 
 

Adenovirus, 1990

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer
Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute
PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

Rhinovirus-14 is one of many viruses that can cause the common cold.  The outer shell you see here is made of four differently shaped pieced, visible in four different colors.
 

Human Rhinovirus-14, 1991
Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell
PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

human rhinovirus-14

hiv reconstruction

A computer rendered image of HIV, which is believed to cause AIDS.  People infected with this virus can lose much of their body’s defenses for fighting off other infections.  Therefore, HIV can be a deadly virus.

HIV Reconstruction, 1991

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

Shown in this image is the core of the virus, which looks like a cone, and the outer shell of the virus, which looks like a ring or a band around the core.  The outer shell is really sphere-shaped, but in this view the sphere has been cut in front and in back, leaving only a center ring.  The HIV Virus is too small to see with an ordinary light microscope.  This image was created by using an electron microscope int he same way doctors do x-ray CT scans of patients to construct a 3D picture.  This image is among the clearest yet produced in order to construct 3D model. Such pictures give scientists clues to ways of attacking the virus to prevent it from spreading in the body and doing its damage.  

hiv protease

with inhibitor

The HIV Virus, also known as the AIDS virus needs a molecule called a protease enzyme in order to make copies of itself.  It the laboratory, this enzyme can be prevented from working by using a possible new drug molecule called A74704.

HIV Protease with Inhibitor, 1991

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer
TJ O’Donnell
PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

rhinovirus ion channel

Ionic strengths and pH influence the assembly and disassembly of virus particles. This model of a putative ion channel in Human Rhinovirus may help in the design of antiviral and anti-AIDS drugs.

Rhinovirus Ion Channel, 1992

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers, Janine Fron and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

hiv protease active site

A Potential anti-AIDS drug inhibits the activity of the HIV Protease enzyme by occupying its "active site". This enzyme is necessary for reproduction of the virus. Data for this image was supplied by Dr. John Erickson.

 

"of great and unusual beauty . . . the contrast between beauty and the horror of the plague confounds you."

- Robert Duffy, St. Louis Post Dispatch

HIV Protease Active Site, 1992

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers, Janine Fron and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches