Chromosome Painting, Geraldine Ondrizek, Kirkland Art Center installation, Photo © Richard Nicol, 2012

Chromosome Painting, Geraldine Ondrizek, Kirkland Art Center installation, Photo © Richard Nicol, 2012

Chromosome Painting

Kirkland Art Center through July 6

Guest blogger Genevieve Gaiser Tremblay is an independent curator and public scholar who received a 2012 Individual Artist Project award from 4Culture in support of Geraldine Ondrizek’s exhibition Chromosome Painting, installed through July 6 at the Kirkland Art Center. 

It is a pivotal time in medical genetics…a field that is exploding with discoveries, breakthroughs as well as misunderstandings and controversies over how we use and interpret genetic data.

In 2009, I initiated and facilitated a unique collaboration between Geraldine Ondrizek, an artist working at the intersection of art and medical science and Robin Bennett, a pioneering genetic counselor and her team of groundbreaking research scientists at the University of Washington’s Medical Genetics Center. This interdisciplinary partnership took the shape of a public art commission commemorating the 50 years of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington Medical Center and has culminated in the current exhibition at Kirkland Arts Center. CHROMOSOME PAINTING showcases three bodies of work generated from Geraldine Ondrizek’s two-year collaboration with the department of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington.

Geraldine Ondrizek is a research-based artist and professor at Reed College. After the tragic loss of her first child to a genetic anomaly fifteen years ago, she dove into her family’s genetic history and shifted her gaze to a nanoscopic one. For the last 15 years, she has worked closely with genetic scientists to trace ethnic identities, portray life spans, and depict genetically inherited conditions. Her work ignites interest and inquiry about the influence of cancer and other diseases on both individuals and entire families. Robin Bennett, UW Medicine senior genetic counselor and co-director of the UW Genetic Medicine Clinic, works closely with patients and families who are concerned about inherited diseases or conditions.

One of our goals with this curatorial and public scholarship effort was to make genetics visible, accessible and better understood. As curator, I have taken many people through the exhibit…explaining the art work, Gerri’s process, the collaboration with UW and our intention as a team to reach a broader audience with this work. What I have discovered, in listening to people’s questions about the work, is that everyone has a unique genetic story to tell…and that we can also learn so much from each other’s stories.

Chromosome Painting scarves, Geraldine Ondrizek, Photo © Richard Nicol, 2012

Chromosome Painting scarves, Geraldine Ondrizek, Photo © Richard Nicol, 2012

“Genetics touches all of us,” …“This collaboration shows the beauty in our DNA and brings this art and genetic science to the public, so we can have a dialogue to help allay fears and misconceptions related to genetics.”

– Robin Bennett, UW Medicine senior genetic counselor and co-director of the UW Genetic Medicine Clinic

Ondrizek’s work will travel to Western Washington University’s Western Gallery for a show on color theory called “ColorMAD,” October 1-November 12, and to the University of Houston Gallery of Art and the Johnson Space Center November 19, 2012 – February 20, 2013.

This exhibition is being funded in part by  the Oregon Arts Commission, The Ford Foundation and the Stillman Drake Fund, Reed College.  4Culture funded several public scholarship forums, including: “Genetic Portraits,” a teaching artist workshop aimed at the professional art therapy community, and “Genetic Visibility,” an community forum exploring issues around genetic research, family histories and genetic banking. More info on forums