Kauvar, Emily F

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  • Publication
    Visualizing the Random, Rare, and Jackpot Nature of Genetic Mutations--A Self Portrait
    (2006-04-21) Kauvar, Emily F
    Many contemporary artists have drawn upon scientific concepts and phenomena as source material and inspiration for their works. This self-portrait is a visual manifestation and expression of the random, relatively rare, and jackpot nature of genetic mutations over time. The highly repetitive and frequent occurrence of cellular replication inevitably allows for mutations, or alterations in the DNA, to randomly occur according to a small statistical probability that is embedded in every juncture of replication. In turn, these mutations are passed on, resulting in a jackpot or concentrated distribution in successive generations. My grade school pictures stand in for replicating cells, as they document my physical progression in a relatively standard, uniform format. Successive generations accumulate in a linear fashion, from left to right and top to bottom. The content of the images is used to delineate the potentially positive, negative, and neutral effects of innate spontaneous mutations, prompted by a random number generator with a mutation rate of 0.2% for each type of mutation or an overall general rate of 0.6%. The model for positive change includes growth and positive evolution, as illustrated by the next year’s school picture. The model for negative change involves regression and deviation from the standard pose, as expressed by an earlier age’s formal portrait. The model for neutral change involves an alteration in the image that does not palpably change the visual information, as delineated by flipping the image across the vertical axis. An external mutagen was also introduced by blurring an image every time my phone rang during the production process. As a final piece, it is the random, rare, and jackpot nature of mutations that create the art and visual pattern.