The last few months have been emotionally unstable for me . . . preparing for my first-born's high school graduation, along with the the entire 'visiting colleges', vacations, and children's end-of-year activities, I feel like there is no me left.
I have managed to squeeze in a few art related activities - finishing 5 new art works for an application for an exhibition in London (which I didn't get into, but which was a great motivator).
Choosing to continue with the CONSTRAINT series, I created:
Initially, first reactions seem to be shock, and then, either horror or hilarity.
I mean them to be visual jesters which have an underlying message about role models and institutions. As a bride, I refused to say "obey" and as bride and groom, my husband and I attempted to have a garden wedding with a non-denominational vow exchange. Unfortunately, after the family friend (minister) had agreed in July to the vows we had chosen, he decided the NIGHT BEFORE OUR WEDDING to announce to us that he would be using his King James/Fundamental Baptist wording. We were NOT happy to say the least. We felt TRAPPED by the trickery . . . yet we had 75 invites out, the Civil War era home we had rented was decorated . . . what to do? We got married anyway and I cried through the entire ceremony because it was not what we wanted. Comments which were relayed to me after the wedding caused me to not speak to certain family members for 3 months. It was awful. I shudder at the memories of my own wedding.
Regarding "Post-Partum", I was thinking about the shock of bringing home a newborn and the emotional upheaval, not to mention the hormonal, changes. It is difficult even if you are not dealing with depression, gestational diabetes, breast-feeding, etc. This work also correlates with the "A PAXIL A DAY" and "COPING SKILLS" series, in that I had issues with pregnancy difficulties and depression. On a broader scale, it simply visualizes the constraints parenthood puts on the family and couplehood dynamics.
One concern I have with marriage, as seen in "Rat Trap", is that once married, the couple tends to lose their 'romance' and 'infatuations' with one another. Having been divorced, I was terrified that our marriage might END our love. I am happy to say, 20 years later, that, for us, that was not the case.
What are the reactions you have to these works? I would love to hear YOUR impressions and thoughts on marriage and parenthood!
Having had a particularly difficult day today, emotionally, speaking - I want to turn the page back to last week when I had some fantastic epiphanies.
Since December and the Miami-Pool Art Fair trip, I have been trying to answer a question I received during my flight wait to Miami. I was approached by a retired Military officer and asked "Where am I going? And "What do I do?" One would think that I have a snap answer to that question, but I never have. Maybe because I really work at breaking down my motivations and analyze my own psyche, I tend to answer in paragraphs or essays, NOT one sentence wonders.
So, I decided I needed to have that one-sentence answer ready the next time I am asked.
If you know me at all, and some of you do, I don't keep anything hidden, I am what I am, for better for worse . . . you know I am NOT a morning person! I think better at night, I work better at night, and the mornings (i.e., anything prior to NOON) are not me at my best. Last week, after realizing we would have ANOTHER SNOWDAY and that I could TURN OFF THE ALARM (woot!), I was given the great opportunity to slowly wake up and tiptoe through that twilight of sleep/dream and awake/reality. What I realized, was that, in one sentence,:
I am the most broken item I have ever put back together. It is a daily process, just like today, when I was literally ripped apart in a public forum for speaking my own truth about my rape. I am stitching myself back together - I am a one-armed Raggedy Ann, restitching my dismembered arm back to myself.
The 2nd epiphany I experienced last week was the solution to an installation problem with "YOU MADE YOUR BED", a new series I will be installing in March at the "Ladies First", Top 10 Women Artists of Tennessee Exhibition at The Customs House Museum (in honor of women's history month). Literally, laying 'abed' I visualized the installation solution and got it planned in my brain before I stepped onto the floor. Here is 1/2 of the installation:
So, what I have learned this month?
1) I realized what I do is, metaphorically and, literally, "I Put Back Together Broken Things", and
2) Just as I am responsible for what my truth is, so are others, and there are deep and lasting crevices that are created from speaking one's truth.
Dickson, TN, January 7, 2011 – n-cap.org, along with The Renaissance Center, is proud to announce the opening of TAKE CARE, BIOMEDICAL ETHICS IN THE 21st CENTURY. The artists of TAKE CARE began organizing the concept and exhibition in 2006-2007, and we are proud to bring the show near its birthplace, Nashville, TN. Conceived by Nashville artist, Adrienne Outlaw, and organized with the assistance of fellow artist, Sher Fick, of Spring Hill, TN, the exhibition has traveled from Grand Rapids, MI, all the way to Miami, FL for the recent Pool Art Fair.
Description: The TAKE CARE show highlights biomedical and ethical dilemmas, including: genetic engineering, pharmaceutical therapy, human reproduction/fertility therapies, mitochondrial DNA, familial connections, fetal annomalies, unregulated scientific testing, and the psychological/emotional impact of confronting these decisions, with the hope that viewers will take the opportunity to better appreciate the complexity of these personal decisions in a rapidly changing world. Works include: ceramic sculpture, video art, mixed media, glass sculpture, embroidered paintings, and photography.
The Renaissance Center is located 35 minutes West of Downtown Nashville in Dickson, TN (855 Hwy 46 S). The opening artist's reception will be Friday, January 14, 2011, from 6 -8 pm, and the exhibition will be viewable through Feb. 5, 2011. Reception is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and is FREE.
To read more about TAKE CARE, visit www.n-cap.org/take_care.html
TAKE CARE is a group exhibition including the following artists: Annette Gates (GA), Kristina Arnold (Bowling Green, KY), Adrienne Outlaw (Nashville TN), Sher Fick (Spring Hill, TN), Lindsay Obermeyer (Chicago, IL), Monica Bock (NE USA), Sadie Ruben (Copenhagen, Denmark), Jeanette May (NYC), and Libby Rowe (TX, formerly a Photography Professor at Vanderbilt University).
Excerpts taken from Art Reviews by Internationally-known critics, include the following:
“[T]he nine artists participating in TAKE CARE reveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount.”
“Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue.”
“As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, ‘The best way to avoid slippery slopes . . . is to have . . . a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications.’ These artists are that voice.”
- Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer
“The artists in this exhibition apply the unresolved implications of this phrase “TAKE CARE” to their personal experiences. Together they catalog a plethora of contemporary concerns.”
“The artists participating in “Take Care” confirm a distressing truth – today’s mothers do not appear to be bolstered by the collective wisdom of our species. Motherhood in the 21st century remains a lonely experiment racing to keep up with procreative advances at the outposts of human accomplishment.”
- Excerpts from Linda Weintraub, International Contemporary Art Critic/Author/Lecturer
“TAKE CARE is an art show about the challenges of new life and especially those problems inherent in an increasingly technological world.”
“TAKE CARE addresses an issue which is at the heart of art practices, that is the nurturing and understanding of intentional and unintentional creation and it provides a range of aesthetic reactions to this crucial issue.”
“TAKE CARE is considered a “bioethical show” because it points at the departure from one era of motherhood and traces the outline of a new one.”
- Veronica Kavass, New York Based Artist/Art Critic
“The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of . . . connection and caring.”
- Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD - Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Full Reviews of TAKE CARE (or reviews of works included in the exhibition), may be found on Artist Sher Fick's blog: Linda Weintraub, Chen Tamir, Rachel Bubis, Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, and Tonya Vernooy.
For detailed directions, fill in a departure address at this link:
The opening Reception, to be held Friday, January 14, 2011, 6-8pm, is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and includes additional exhibitions (see invitation, above).
Contact Information: Jason Driskill, Curator & Gallery Director, The Renaissance Center, 615-446-4450
or Sher Fick, representing TAKE CARE Artists, Cell 615-975-1025. All artist can be made available for interviews, (please contact Sher Fick at email@example.com for high-res, print ready images of TAKE CARE.
So, big happenings at Pool Art Fair - Miami 2010:
Our suite at the Carlton Arms Hotel was spectacular (it did look smaller upon arrival than the pictures), but our installation exhibit looked fantastic. 7 of the 9 artists of TAKE CARE participated:
The Opening was well-attended and included a live band - Pocket of Lollipops . . . and there were approximately 20 rooms and suites transformed into galleries, installations and group exhibitions.
Views of our TAKE CARE installation:
- Adrienne Outlaw's FECUND SERIES
- Kristina Arnold's DRIP
- Sher Fick's COPING SKILLS
- Libby Rowe's WOMB WORRIES
- Lindsay Obermeyer's SHADOW SERIES
- Jeanette May's - A.R.T. Series
- Sadie Ruben's ALIEN FETUSES
Every time this exhibition travels and installs we learn new things. Miami taught us to consider non-gallery spaces and their lack of lighting. What was required of us was a real collaboration, not of the artmaking this time around, but the actual logistics of the exhibition . . . we kind of all chose different hats and did the work that we were best at, including preparing literature, color correcting images, communication between artists and between the group and the exhibition organizers, printers, and graphic artists, the physical driving of the show in a van to Miami, installation, moving furniture, running errands, and then the glory part - attending the exhibition and 'manning' our suite during the 3 day event.
Luckily for us my husband, Don, was there and pitched in, too. It is always nice to have someone taller, stronger, and cuter around! We (Don and I) were lucky to stay on beautiful Sunny Isles Beach for the entire week and relied on the local buses for transportation - we really got the local flavor and saved so much money; for instance we took the 'Airport Flyer' from the airport for $2.35 each, vs. paying $54.00 for a cab - that really adds up when you are eating out every day.
The actual 'post-mortum' blog will immediately (within the week) follow this posting . . . where I will get into the deeper implications of Art Fairs, Grant Writing, Travel, and What Do Collectors Mean For The Artists????
& For Art's Sake,
5, 4, 3, 2,
1 - Yes, I am on the LAST day of the Miami countdown.
Upon reflection this countdown started approximately 4.5 years ago when Adrienne Outlaw first conceived the idea of the TAKE CARE exhibition. It has been a 'long and winding road', but definitely one that provided tons of learning experiences.
It is amazing how well you can get to know an artist that you have never met face-to-face! Although our work has obvious correlations, 'clicking' with personalities and life experiences is not a given. We are all so blessed to have made friends and 'comrades' along the way.
Besides the countless 'unpaid' hours artists devote to their work and exhibitions, there is an emotional expense. All we can hope for is that when the works are ultimately unveiled to the public that we reach a few people (well, to be honest, I have higher hopes for Miami as it is a 'contemporary' art fair!), people who 'get' us and our work - who might on some level appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that create the work and bring it to the public.
So, I head off to Miami with a few things in my mental pocket:
a) excitement to meet some of my 'new' artist friends
b) anticipation about watching the public viewing our exhibition
c) hope that our work will be well-received by the knowledgeable International Art Community (including collectors, curators, and art enthusiasts)
d) but, more than ANYTHING, I am looking forward to a sense of accomplishment, which is something that is beyond monetary value.
The anticipation kind of feels like waiting for a baby to be born - we are all ready - now we are just anticipating "the day"! We have high hopes for our impending creation: TAKE CARE: Biomedical Ethics in the 21st Century!
Art Review by Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD
Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Motherhood is about caring and connection. Recent developments present new challenges to this fundamental institution. Some of the developments are social. Women have always cared for other women’s children, especially since women until recently frequently died in childbirth. Women historically confronted pregnancy, labor, and delivery with no small amount of fear. Literature is full is stories about stepmothers, some of whom were wonderful, and a hopefully exaggerated proportion who were not. In today’s society, with divorce and remarriage, children often have two or more mothers at the same time, which can stress notions of the unitary family that characterize our society’s dominant discourse. Other developments are scientific. New technologies can enable pregnancies that otherwise would not occur. Conception can be separated from carrying and birthing. The fetus can be visualized during pregnancy. Baby’s first picture is often a sonogram. And while blood ties have always had particular social salience, increased understanding of genetics has t ended to make them even more important. Not so long ago, efforts to establish paternity depended on whether the child looked like the father. Now the relationship can be established with certainty, using a blood sample or a simple swab of the inside of the cheek.
The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of motherhood, of connection and caring. Sometimes, new knowledge of connection is beneficial. Take the case of mitochondrial DNA, the focus of Annette Gates’ work. Unlike most of our DNA which comes from both parents, the DNA in mitochondria, the energy sources of our cells, comes entirely from our mothers. As a result, we are connected directly with our mothers, and their mothers, through generations. Maternal inheritance became important after hundreds of young professionals and dissidents were “disappeared” by the military regime in Argentina in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their children were confiscated and placed in new homes, seemingly without a trace. But the grandmothers, the abuelas, enlisted the aid of Mary-Claire King who used the mitochondrial DNA to identify and return their grandchildren.
But the supremacy of genetic connection is not always so benign. New reproductive technologies allow many to overcome infertility, but often at a steep price. Some women experience the process of hyper ovulation, egg retrieval, and pharmacologic support of gestation as alienating, as transforming them into the objects of the medical gaze. Jeanette May’s at times almost comical images of eggs serve as a counterpoint to quotidian pictures of women and sonograms. And yet women pursue these procedures specifically to create a family with children to whom they are biologically connected. Notably, while some women use donated eggs so that they can have the experience of gestation, it is far more common for women to implant and carry to term embryos created with their own eggs, evidencing the importance of genetic connectedness.
Our laws often enact the primacy of genetic connections. A number of courts have ruled that gestational surrogates, women who carry embryos created using the egg of another woman, usually the woman in the couple who commissioned the surrogacy, are not “mothers” of the resulting children and so have no basis on which to seek custody or contact. In these cases, the experience of pregnancy, with its risks,
discomforts, and obviousness, simply disappears as a matter of law. Monica Bock’s inclusion of bits of umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, and the amniotic sac into dustpans perhaps symbolizes gestation as waste, of women as fetal containers. In our legal system, children are permitted to have only two parents no matter how many adults play a role in their lives, and those two parents have supremacy over all the others. In blended families, where the genetic parents separate from each other and then form new relationships, the new adults – the stepparents – can struggle to define their roles as parents, particularly as against the genetic parents whose claims once cemented by a modicum of nurture persist unless severed by abandonment or abuse. It is rage against the iconification of the genetic link that Kristina Arnold explores in her work. In her Drip installation, red glass pieces encased in hastily stitched plastic covers, protrude from the wall.
While behavior is almost surely the product of complex gene environment interactions, much effort has been devoted recently to dissecting the genetic contributions. Several years ago, for example, Caspi and his collaborators demonstrated that children with a particular genetic variant who were seriously abused during childhood were more likely to have serious behavior problems as adults. Such findings can be used in a variety of ways – to identify children who need special protection (although all children deserve a safe home), to identify druggable targets for treatment, to undermine the inadequate mothering explanation for children’s problems. Each of these uses raises its own ethical and policy challenges. As light dancing on Obermeyer’s beadwork shifts one’s perception of the work, so might new findings shift our understanding of behavior.
For millennia, women have worried that their children would be born with something visibly wrong. The ability to visualize the fetus using techniques such as ultrasonography and MRI has transformed pregnancy, providing the potential to make these fears concrete. These technologies can and often do provide reassurance, which is one reason ultrasound has become routine. At times, however, they reveal variations, some of which resolve but many of which are serious problems, leaving women with decisions about whether to continue the pregnancy, whether to undergo fetal therapy where possible, or whether simply to prepare for what may lie ahead. These concerns are represented in very different ways by Sadie Ruben and Libby Rowe. Ruben represents the fetus as alien, strange, frightening, floating in liquid evoking amniotic fluid within the womb, taking over the woman’s body. Rowe’s malformed sock monkeys, by contrast, suggest that we are meant to accept and love children no matter what their challenges.
Finally, some of the artists comment on the technology itself. Sher Fick celebrates pharmaceuticals, which allow her to live. Her pill bottles are covered with fabrics, many of which show story book characters from our childhood.
Adrienne Outlaw intersperses colorful scientific videos of the embryonic heart and blood flow using such techniques as confocal microscopy with pictures of the dailyness of mothering and taking care – breastfeeding, snuggling, nurturing. The science is spectacular, but which is the more wonderful?
Take Care? Take Care!
Written by Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer, 2009 for TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood Exhibition.
Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened. -- Madame de Stael, 1835
As molecular medicine, genetic manipulation, cloning, and stem cell research their rapid progress so too must the morality and ethics that assist in governing their boundaries. Through an examination of the gray area between enhancement and therapy, necessity and desire, parent and child, the nine artists participating in Take Care: The Art, Science, and Bioethics of Motherhoodreveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount. The political philosopher Michael J. Sandel writes, "Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we may soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our new-found genetic knowledge may also enable us to manipulate our own nature...to make ourselves 'better than well.'" Caught in the middle of this is the mother whose fundamental need to create, protect, and support her offspring to the best of her ability has to contend with biotechnology's possible repercussions While scientists are driven by the aspirations of discovery and improvement, the artists serve as the cultural conscience, helping to explicate the complex and question the ramifications of a science that will pervade social, political, cultural, and self beliefs.
Both Sher Fickand Lindsay Obermeyer examine normality and the question of enhancement versus therapy. But what is normal? In May 2008 USA Today reported that 51% of Americans were taking at least one prescription drug for a chronic condition, a 50% increase since 2001. In 7 years time, maintaining a certain standard of health by taking daily medication had become the norm. In Coping SkillsSher Fick constructed a table to hold all of the medication she has consumed in her "pursuit of physical and mental health;"prescriptions that enable Fick to become, and remain, an attentive, present mother. The structure exists as both an altar and a vanity. The mirrored shelf implies a dressing table that might hold cosmetic goods. Yet, the artist challenges this notion by carefully encasing each medication in a finely made quilt with suture seams. The preciousness or fragility implied by these colorful coverings can be attributed to either the medication itself or, more likely, the medicine taker. The coverings themselves contain varied images of skulls, religious imagery, monetary symbols, band-aids, plant life, 1950s children playing, and Frida Kahlo, who suffered a tragic miscarriage. The vibrancy and symbolism along with the altar itself suggest Dia de Los Muertos, a celebration that honors lost loved ones. Could it be that the artist is commemorating her past self and simultaneously rejoicing in the person these pharmaceuticals have allowed her to become?
Lindsay Obermeyer also deals with the pain and stigma of someone who requires medical and pharmaceutical intervention. Her fastidious beadwork enables the viewer to visualize the complexities of emotional and mental health care. All three portraits show her daughter in profile. In Shadow – Blues the internal silhouette is made up of clear crystals while contrasting shades of blue fly and swirl around her. She is completely still, unable to move, amidst a sea of activity; she feels empty, cold and alone. In the other portrait, Shadow – Red Hot, the pattern and complex beadwork take place within her profile; as if her mind and body are on fire. The world around her seems to melt away, again she is alone. In Voidthere is only her faint profile leaving the viewer asking: will her daughter ever emerge? Obermeyer's work calls out to the audience for help. The artist desperately wants to know if mood and mind altering medications will help or hurt. Are the trials and side-effects worth the possible outcome? Currently, geneticists are working on prescriptions tailored to a patient's genetics, eliminating most trials and tribulations while opening up the door to enhancement possibilities. Nicolas Agar suggests this may become a slippery slope. "Some think that we should pass different moral judgments on enhancement from those we pass on therapy. They say that while therapy is justifiable, enhancement is not. The problem is that it is difficult to make the therapy–enhancement distinction principled. It is hard to find definitions of disease suitable to serve as a moral guideline for genetic technologies."
The idea that our genetics will one day define our medical treatment is at once promising and scary. Everyone wants to be seen as an individual yet that individuality should not be an uncontrollable deciding factor in receiving health care and insurance or in becoming someone's companion, lover, parent, or child. In Kristina Arnold's Drip installation, the artist seems to be questioning how blood defines a person. The "drips" are dark red projections in clear plastic pouches with sutured edges, each unique in size and form, like individuals in a family. The plastic pouches resemble microscope slides while each blood drip casts a long shadow on the white wall. These silhouettes of bloodlines are altered by light changes in the room, implying the coming changes in how a person is perceived as genetics becomes interchangeable with the definition of self. The self then becomes a commodity as Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, predicted in 1998, "It’s likely that within less than ten years, all one hundred thousand or so genes that comprise the genetic legacy of our species will be patented, making them the exclusive intellectual property of global pharmaceutical, chemical, agribusiness, and biotech companies."While Rifkin's forecast proved over-eager, it certainly seems to be progressing. Stefan Lovgren of National Geographic wrote in October 2005, "A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities." If one-fifth of our genetic material is owned by companies and colleges what does that leave for the individual?
Focusing on the definition of self, Annette Gates creates porcelain organisms that are casts of originals; they are the structures left behind once the fabric shells have been destroyed in a firing process. The end result is an archetype, similar yet distinct from its mother. Within current cloning practices, where one de-nucleated donor egg is injected with another donor's genetic material, the end result is a clone with replicated DNA but this does not mean an exact duplicate. First, the genetic material from the donor egg does become a part of the clone, and second, as the clone matures the environment that created the original can never be the exact same thus its gene expression will vary. Gates' organisms tell tales of a fragile future where they cannot meet the expectations of the original; they are new conglomerations of old material. As the British philosopher, Jonathan Glover, points out, "There is the objection that a child created as a replica is treated, not as an end in himself or herself, but merely as a means."Those means, he goes on to explain, can be the wish of a parent to live on after death or the desire to recreate a passed loved one. In the end the clones, like Gates' organisms, will always be fragile reproductions.
Libby Rowe's Womb Worries series addresses the anxieties all mothers-to-be have when they prepare for a new life. Currently, genetic testing is still in its early stages, generally for upwards of only 14 genetic abnormalities. However, a laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine has begun trials for genetic testing that looks for 200 different genetic diseases. Its chair of molecular and human genetics, Arthur Beaudet, believes that this screening process will become routine in five years time. The Houston Chronicle reported, in December 2008, the issues surrounding such a test include potential false positives, which could lead parents to abort a healthy fetus, the implication that a life with a disability is not worth living and disparity between those who can and cannot afford such a test (it is currently $1600). It is interesting then that Rowe has chosen to use the sock monkey to convey her worries. The sock monkey was historically a working class child’s toy, made from red-heeled knit socks used by factory and farm workers. The artist has taken this toy and remade it for adults as either a cautionary tale or to highlight the possible horrors that await us if we don’t get tested. Although each monkey is still smiling, unaware of their abnormalities, ready for love, how is a parent supposed to care for a child that has two heads, one genital, and no legs? Like Paul McCarthy's Tomato Heads of 1994, whose "novelty item appearance hints at the manic consumerism of our theme-park utopias," Rowe makes us aware of the capitalistic culture behind these natural maternal anxieties.There is no right answer, it is an individual choice, but one that is made for a price. As Richard Hayes, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, states, "We support the use of that [genetic screening] to allow couples at risk to have healthy children. But for non-medical, cosmetic purposes, we believe this would undermine humanity and create a techno-eugenic rat race."
Whether through cloning or genetic manipulation, Sadie Ruben's Alien Fetuses ask if the aberrations that originate from gene expression errors are worth potential desired results. Her creatures' destinies are unknown as they sit, brewing – growing – within glass jars that seem to resemble pasta containers used in the kitchen rather than scientific vessels of experimentation. Ruben's fetuses are commenting on the commoditization of lab created embryos. The gold flecks adhering to their opaque, amorphous bodies indicate their precious worth. But we are left to wonder what happens to them if Ruben is unable to care for them? They are helpless and completely dependent upon human ministering. These beings can be seen as a critique of trendy hobbyists trying to genetically engineer life in their garage. With visions of becoming the Steve Jobs of biotechnology, laypersons are beginning to experiment with new life forms at home. A group known as DIYbio has begun a community laboratory where amateurs can explore their scientific ideas. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell suggests that this type of unrestrained environment could lead to some very important discoveries. He added, "We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game."But Ruben's fetuses tell a different story, one of a nebulous future where their lives are not entertaining rather they exist in a lonely laboratory.
This laboratory lifestyle could become a reality if Dr. Davor Solter, developmental biologist at the Institute of Medical Biology, is correct in his prediction of the future use of artificial wombs. He says, "In essence, it would eliminate all the limitations we have now: you could have as many or as few progeny as you want...I can visualize a fetus floating freely in fluid and the umbilical cord attached to a machine."The work of Monica Bock questions the current and evolving value of the mother in our society as biotechnology advances. Bock's Afterbirth (Sac, Fluid, Cord) focuses on the importance of a mother's body in keeping her fetus alive and growing. Yet it is the placenta – whose sole function is to provide nutrients and oxygen from mother to child – that is so quickly discarded after the child is born. The three dustpans reference this quick disposal and hint at the possibility of life as a commodity. That they are three in number indicates birth, life, and death or mother, father, and child; all are easily swept away in the world of biotechnological progress if they do not meet decided standards.
Embryo selection and enhancement is key to Jeanette May's investigation of a mother's role within these new biotechnological advancements. The artist's initial question seems to be: Is it not the mother's responsibility, nay, purpose, to want the absolute best for her children? The use of slick photography and poster-size imagery draw the viewer into a bright environment surrounded by happy, beautiful people, colorful plant life, and a consumer-happy lifestyle. Upon closer inspection, we realize that all is not right with this world. Eggs are forced into square molds, growing fetuses are compared to plants bred for certain characteristics and mommies-to-be are perusing magazines imagining their lives as Michael Kors advertisements. May's posters seem to ask: once society has screened for all possible defects, how long until we manipulate those genes to acquire certain traits under the auspices of having a "happier" life and the duress of "keeping up with Joneses"? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles will soon offer its clients the ability to pre-select their "choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases."Is it the duty of the future mother to provide the best that technology has to offer for her children? Or is she turning her children into accoutrements?
Adrienne Outlaw continues this examination of maternal responsibility within the realm of advancing technology. The artist posits: How far should a mother go to protect her young? Does technology offer the best outcome for a child born today or tomorrow? In Outlaw's Fecund video series, electrified, metal breasts protrude militaristically from a white wall, each containing a unique video. The recorded imagery shows either the latest in biophysics research, such as green florescent proteins tracking tumor growth, or the natural tenderness that exists between a mother and her child, like a newborn baby breastfeeding.As the viewer's get up close to the metal nipples to peer inside, similar to a breastfeeding infant, they become aware that the hard material of the bosom creates a distance between mother and offspring; technology seems to be getting in the way. At the same time, however, the viewer is given a chance to see the amount of knowledge possible at the cellular level, thus parents may be given the opportunity to make sure their progeny's cell division is developmentally on target. The question then becomes one of what happens when a cell goes awry. Is it a mother's duty to make sure that her embryos, her fetuses, have everything they will need to survive and succeed in the 21st century, even if that means genetic interference? Professor Ronald M. Green of Dartmouth College suggests that with gene manipulation we could live in a disease-free world, he asks, "Why not improve our genome?"
While Sher Fick and Lindsey Obermeyer investigate the growing pharmaceutical role with advancing medicine, Annette Gates concentrates on the idea of the self within the world of cloning, Libby Rowe and Sadie Ruben examine the rights of the fetuses within genetic progress, and finally Monica Bock, Adrienne Outlaw, and Jeanette May explore the function of the mother within the biotechnological age. Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue. As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, "The best way to avoid slippery slopes to bad outcomes is to have an informed, democratic discussion that takes into account both expert opinions and social values. We need regulations because scientists and the general public need clarity about what they can and cannot do, a convincing rationale for permissions and restrictions, and a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications."These artists are that voice.
 Sandel, Michael J. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. (Cambridge , Mass: Harvard
See Sher Fick's artist statement
 Agar, Nicolas, "Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations," ActionBioscience.org, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2006.
Rifkin, Jeremy. The Biotech Century (London: Phoenix, 1998), p.63.
Rugoff, Ralph, "Deviations on a Theme – works by Paul McCarthy," Artforum, October 1994.
Steere, Mike, "Designer babies: Creating the perfect child," Cnn.com/technology, October 30, 2008.
Wohlsen, Marcus, ""Hobbyists try genetic engineering at home: Critics worry amateurs could unleash an environmental or medical disaster," MSNBC.com. December 26, 2008.
Pearson, Helen, "Making Babies: The Next 30 Years," Nature, Vol. 454, July 17, 2008, p. 260.
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So I keep hearing all these esoteric artists, writers, and musicians say "I am blocked, I don't have any inspiration, I'm waiting".Well, that just chaps my ass because it is such a cop-out. Of all the successful artists I know (whether they be writers, musicians, etc.), they all work and they find the inspiration from that action. Art is really about preparation - cleaning off that table, having your tools and techniques on hand, carving out the time, and then STARTING - something. STARTing anything . . . lift the brush, touch the pen to the paper, or the fingers to the keyboard . . . make a mark, a word, a sound . . . then react to that item . . . by continuing in this manner, the actions become problem solving. Keep the end result OUT OF YOUR MIND - it doesn't matter yet - react to the first layer, then react to the second . . . and so forth, and if you have prepared yourself enough, if you have emptied your mind of all the static from the day, if you have kept your techniques honed, if you have chipped the rust off - - you. might. reveal. inspiration. This miracle happened to me just a few nights ago and the feeling is indescribable - it is the moment when all the sounds come together, when the colors pop, when the prose flows . . . and you just be there and let it happen. I hope you get to experience it again and again in your life.