Picture of the Week—Ophelia (Microbial Art)

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;There with fantastic garlands did she comeOf crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purplesThat liberal shepherds give a grosser name,But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:There, on the pendent bou...

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There is a willow grows aslant a brook,

That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;

There with fantastic garlands did she come

Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:

There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds

Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;

When down her weedy trophies and herself

Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;

And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:

Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;

As one incapable of her own distress,

Or like a creature native and indued

Unto that element: but long it could not be

Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,

Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay

To muddy death.

--Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, Act IV, Scene VII


Thus ends Ophelia's tale in Shakespeare's play, with her body floating in a muddy pond. Sir John Everett Millais painted her thus; his Ophelia hangs in the Tate Britain in London. Reproducing such a masterpiece would be difficult, but how about doing so using bacteria as your medium? Artist JoWOnder did that and photographed the result as it changed over six days; all six versions can all be seen in the Microbial Art gallery online:

Artist JoWOnder presents a pre-Raphaelite painting of Ophelia created with bacteria. The demise of the painting is filmed using time-lapse photography, showing a story of death and creation of new life. The colors and animation for ‘6 Days Goodbye Poems Of Ophelia’ were created in a laboratory at Surrey University UK with the help of microbiologist Dr. Simon Park. When displayed in 2010, this will be an outdoor video installation of Ophelia with poems submitted from the public. Composer Milton Mermikides will be producing a sound track based on the genetic code of bacteria that colonize the gut. The video below includes poems for Ophelia collected through voicemail.






( Hat tip: The Loom)
About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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