I was thrilled to see so many people at the opening of Illumination: 21st Century Interactions with Art, Science, and Technology. For this show, under the direction of curator Chi Essary, sixteen San Diego artists produced work after teaming up with scientists and technologists from seven major research institutions: La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Qualcomm Institute/Calit2, Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Scripps Research, and UC San Diego. 

I was paired with Dr. Krishna Vadodaria at the Salk Institute who’s work stretched my work in new ways. Below are some detail shots of my work Untitled (after Vadodaria), fibers on acrylic, 2019 and a short piece I wrote for the show. Illumination is on view until May 3rd with free general admission. This venue is wheelchair accessible with close parking in the Alcazar parking lot at Balboa Park. For more information visit SDAI online HERE.

Untitled (after Vadodaria) detail, fibers on acrylic, 2019

This new series of fibers is more process-based than much of my other works but not without its research grounding. Before meeting with my scientific partner Krishna Vadodaria, I was exploring readings on neuroplasticity and processing trauma from a cognitive/ behavioral standpoint. It was wonderful to discover similarities in our work beyond the process of experimentation. 

Her research works toward creating neurons with the same genetic makeup as the patient’s own brain cells that can then be used to test the efficacy of drug therapy. This would be a drastic improvement from the current practice of painstakingly easing into and out of drug trials over months, a process I know intimately due to my own experience with traumatic brain injury. Vadodara takes something external, a skin cell, and alters it to support the growth of something structural, the hippocampus in the brain. This creative repurposing was a great parallel to my use of “decorative” embroidery stitches to mend mesh netting. 

Untitled (after Vadodaria) detail, fibers on acrylic, 2019

Part of the imaging process she told me about in the laboratory involves a multi-colored dye process that helps differentiate these structures. One type of die will bond to DNA for example, the bulk of which is in the cell’s nucleus. Therefore, when you look at the slide you will see a strong concentration of that dye in one portion of the cell marking the nucleus. This gave me my color palette and an idea of how to organize the stitches.

I was fascinated by the process of deprogramming and reprogramming cells to turn skin to neurons. To pull from Vidodaira’s research, I started to think of my stitches as the different structures inside a cell.  As I stretch the mesh over the plexiglass I think of it as a pristine microscopic slide ripe for experimenting. I imagine how my stitches might develop and divide to spread across the surface in distinct stages. This gave me the freedom to experiment with new stitches and expand the “vocabulary” of my embroidery. The structures I’ve created are not a direct depiction of her work or meant to be a didactic illustration but I have really enjoyed the shift in perspective our conversation gave me.

Untitled (after Vadodaria), fibers on acrylic, 2019

Thanks again to Krishna and Chi for collaborating and including me in this show, and to the installation/exhibition team at SDAI. If you do happen to visit the show and see my work please tag me (@kikarino) and the art institute (#illuminationsdai) in any photos and use the extended title of the work to give credit to my partner scientist.

You can view write-ups of the show via the San Diego Union-Tribune, KPBS, and the Times of San Diego. Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of the artist, installation photo via SDAI’s Facebook account. View more photos from the opening which welcomed over 800 guests HERE.

One thought on “Illumination at SDAI

  1. Congratulations Akiko ! Great essay and piece LOVED finally meeting you even that there was no time to talk more than two words. Sending warm hug Becky

    Becky Guttin Artist 619 997 9595 beckyguttin.com

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