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Inspired by the sequencing of the human genome, a dancer, an artist, and a molecular biologist have created a performance and installation piece that explores communication between artists and scientists.

The work is called “SPR Synthesis Project.” The initials come from the three collaborators: molecular biologist Robert Sinsheimer, dancer and choreographer John Pennington, and visual artist Susan Rankaitis.

Susan Rankaitis. “DNA #2,” free-standing panel, 8” x 16”, 2002.

For the piece, Rankaitis created a giant chromosome, measuring 8-by-16 feet, on a panel that appears at the center of a stage, where Pennington performs his “dance of life.” The curved panel contains genetic images and bits of text provided by Sinsheimer, who in 1985 was among the first scientists to discuss plans for the Human Genome Project.

“Art is a creative means of unraveling information, questioning and developing a voice or position—open to multiple readings, and somewhat on an edge,” says Rankaitis, a professor of art at Scripps College in Claremont, California. “The most interesting art is always reflective of its time.”

A version of the SPR Synthesis Project was performed in March on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Other works of art by Rankaitis are represented here:

Susan Rankaitis. “TGCA,” combined media monoprint, 1996.

Susan Rankaitis. “DNA #12,” mixed media print, 29” x 39”, 1992.

Susan Rankaitis. “DNA #93-3,” 1993.

To see more paintings and current projects by Rankaitis, visit the artist's Web site here.

All images are copyright Susan Rankaitis and courtesy Robert Mann Gallery.

— Birgit Reinert


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