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Suzanne Anker
Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston, Texas
Review by Donna Tennant

Suzanne Anker, "Remote Sensing," 2013, 14 Rapid Prototype scultures in glass Petrie dishes. Image courtesy of Deborah Colton Gallery.

Continuing through April 26, 2014


New York artist and educator Suzanne Anker combines art, biology, science, and technology in radical ways. She is a theoretical artist who uses everything from microscopes to cameras to 3-D printers in this thought-provoking and visually dazzling show. Anker has been using photographs in her work for more than a decade, and this exhibition is part of “FotoFest 2014: The 15th International Biennial of Photography & Photo-Related Art” in Houston. 


Large still and time-lapse photographs, as well as video animations of various sea creatures — sea urchins, shrimp, and those who live in the scum under piers — line the walls. When seen under a microscope, the shapes and colors that make up these creatures are extraordinary. Anker is constantly contemplating and experimenting, working in collaboration with biologists, printmakers, and technology experts to open up new worlds in remarkable ways. As the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Anker worked to establish a nature and technology laboratory where students experiment and make art in a new field called “Bio Art.” 


Anker’s new series of “Vanitas” involves Petrie dishes. She fills the small containers with a variety of flora and fauna and photographs them in color. The prints hang on the wall, but nearby are actual Petrie dishes filled with landscape-like sculptures produced by scanning the Petrie dish photographs and using Photoshop to extrude them to a 3-D printer.


The show also includes dozens of glazed ceramic sculptures of sea sponges, one collection with a silver metallic glaze and the other with white porcelain. Anker was looking for a metaphor for the brain, and she came up with the sea sponge. On a nearby wall hangs a series of dried plant specimens collected from the neighborhood around the gallery and placed in glass vessels.


Anker studied printmaking and papermaking in college, but started on her theoretical path in 1986 when she got her first computer, an Apple Macintosh SE. In the 1990s, Anker had an art and genetics show that led to a large solo show which brought together neuroscience and art with images of brain scans, Rorschach tests, butterflies, embryos, and more. Of her ongoing investigation of life and death, transmutation and transformation, biology and technology, Anker says, “You may not always find what you are looking for, but you might find something unexpected and magical. Scientists don’t like unintended consequences, but artists embrace them.”

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