Robin Bennett and the UW Genetic Counselors at "Chromosome Paintings", 2011

Robin Bennett and the UW Genetic Counselors at “Chromosome Paintings”, 2011

In 2009, I brought my esteemed colleagues, Geraldine Ondrizek and Robin Bennett, together to embark on a collaboration at the convergence of art and medical science. It took the shape of an immersive arts residency that was based on the research of the genetics scientists at UW and is now culminating in an exhibition at Kirkland Arts Center. This partnership inspired a new, seminal body of work for Ondrizek. The upcoming exhibition at Kirkland Arts Center, CHROMOSOME PAINTING, showcases three bodies of work generated from Ondrizek’s two-year residency with the department of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington. It includes the artist’s explorations, prototypes and final commissioned work, “Chromosome 17”, as well as new work made specifically for the Kirkland Arts Center.

Geraldine Ondrizek is a research-based artist and professor at Reed College. Her work ignites interest and inquiry about the influence of cancer and other diseases on both individuals and entire families. She relies heavily on scientific inquiry, focusing on documenting biological specimens and exploring systems of categorization. She works closely with genetic scientists to trace ethnic identities, portray life spans, and depict genetically inherited conditions. Robin Bennett, one of the most prominent genetic counselors in the nation, teaches human genetics at the UW Medical School. She pioneers genetic counseling practices that have become standard worldwide. As a community catalyst and public scholar, I integrate research, teaching, service, and public engagement in my curatorial practice. A formidable interdisciplinary trifecta, making genetic information more accessible, more visible and better understood was the goal of our team in creating this partnership, the public art commission and the exhibition.

In order to properly commemorate the 50 years of Medical Genetics/Genetic Medicine Clinic at the University of Washington Medical Center through her commission, Ondrizek dove deeply into the groundbreaking work of the UW scientists… Founder, Arno Motulsky, M.D. (colorblindness, pharmacogenetics), Peter Byers, M.D. (osteogenesis imperfecta, inherited aneurysms, Ehlers-Danlos syndromes and other collagen disorders), Wendy Raskind MD, PhD. (dystonias, myokymia, myopathies, and ataxias), Mary-Claire King, Ph.D. (HIV, lupus, inherited deafness, breast and ovarian cancer), and Dr. Philip J. Fialkow (leukemia) to name a few.

Chromosome 17, G. Ondrizek, UW Medical Genetics, 2011

“Chromosome 17” is the public artwork that was commissioned by the department of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington, is made of dyed and embroidered silk and engraved plexiglass and uses the National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI) database of the human genome as a resource to artistically map technologically derived gene sequences.

Geraldine Ondrizek’s exquisite limited edition silk panel/scarves of the 23 Chromosomes with genetic markers for Cancer (Prostate and Testicular, Ovarian, Colon, Gastric, Ovarian, Hepatocellular, Melanoma, Bladder, Oral Cancer, Breast, Pancreatic, Leukemia and Leukemia t-cell acute, Lymphoma and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) are on exhibit now at Kirkland Arts Center through July 6. They are also available online. Learn more, view/purchase: GO Forward Design

Ondrizek’s silk scarves

I’m excited to share this multi-faceted endeavor with you and hope to engage a broader audience with this exhibition, one that extends beyond the art community to include the medical community, the cancer research and survivorship communities.  I thank you for sharing this with others you think will have an interest in this work.

Chromosome Painting, G. Ondrizek, Lightboxes, 2012

Kirkland Art Center presents: CHROMOSOME PAINTING and works from a commission for the University of Washington Division of Medical Genetics, GERALDINE ONDRIZEK  Curated by Genevieve Gaiser Tremblay   May 25 – July 6, 2012, Kirkland Arts Center. Here are links to (UW and 4Culture) writings about this work:




This exhibition is being funded in part by  the Oregon Arts Commision, The Ford Foundation and the Stillman Drake Fund, Reed College.

4Culture is funding 3 public scholarship forums. My contribution to this project is dedicated to my eldest sister, Loretto Gaiser, who recently passed away from Leukemia.

3 thoughts on “Medical Genetics and Art meet on the Eastside

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