Delicate but deadly viruses exquisitely recreated out of blown glass
A stunning collection of blown glass figurines exquisitely capturing some of the most deadly viruses and bacteria known to man have been made so perfectly that some say they’re too frightening to go near.
Seen blown up to one-million times their original size, these crystal-clear, some almost wriggling replicas of HIV, E Coli and Malaria to name just a few show the haunting diseases rarely seen in such beautiful form.
Titled Glass Microbiology, the art work is the product of U.K. artist Luke Jerram who dreamed up the collection with the intent not to entirely frighten spectators but more of send a message of the virus’ global impact.
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‘The reaction to the work really has been quite amazing,’ Jerram told the BBC. ‘They’re obviously incredibly beautiful so people are automatically attracted to things of beauty but when they realize actually what they are there’s that element of sort of repulsion.
‘Some people feel as though they might get infected if they touch them, which is quite nice,’ he added with a smile.
Jerram worked closely with virologist Andrew Davidson of the University of Bristol to ensure each model was mastered to the closest details known to scientists.
Once sketched out, the images were sent to professional glassblowers Kim George, Brian George and Norman Veitch for their elaborate creation.
Appearing so realistic, down to the lack of color due to their microscopic size’s relation to light, photographs of the finished products have appeared in science text books and journals.
Despite this, some features may not be perfectly exact, as Jerram notes.
‘We have to piece together our understanding by comparing grainy electron microscope images with abstract chemical models and existing diagrams,’ he told the Smithsonian Magazine.
Also in some places he admits the models may be intentionally slightly different. Such is the case of his H1N1 virus model which appears spikier simply to add to the finished product’s durability, not for presentation’s sake.
Over time with scientists’ improvements with technology and their understanding, he realizes he’ll have to make slight changes to them, but that doesn’t appear to be of worry, only exciting advancement.
Taking the smallpox disease for example, work on that replica has had to be placed on hold after one Florida scientist’s recent theory that it’s a bit different than others think.
‘He has published papers that show a very different understanding of the internal structure. I now need to consider whether to create a new model or wait until his model has become more widely accepted by the scientific community,’ Jerram said.
Among Jerram’s loudest praise for his work, and perhaps most interestingly, he reveals thanks from those directly suffering from the viruses he beautifully recreates.
‘I’ve also had emails from people suffering from HIV who have said that by looking at the art work you’ve made it’s given me an appreciation of the viruses that are actually inside my body,’ he said.
As one shared email on his website reads: ‘Your sculpture, even as a photo, has made HIV much more real for me than any photo or illustration I’ve ever seen. It’s a very odd feeling seeing my enemy, and the eventual likely cause of my death, and finding it so beautiful.’
His work has been added to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection and is also now appearing in New York’s Museum of Art and Design through April 7th as well as in Maryland’s Strathmore Fine Art in Bethesda from February 16 to April 13.