Spotlight on Dr. Jerri Bartholomew: Glass Representations of Microbiology
By Natalie Saleh
“Art trains your mind to be open to different solutions and to try new things,” says Dr. Jerri Bartholomew.
Her whole life Bartholomew has been fascinated with both science and art. She is a professor and the head of the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University, as well as an Emile F. Pernot Distinguished Professor. Bartholomew is also an invited artist for “To See the Unseen” and has played an integral role in planning the exhibit.
Bartholomew studies pathogens and fish. She works with a lot with Pacific salmon, studying the naturally occurring diseases they get in the wild. She also studies how humans have caused changes to the environment, and how these changes impact fish and their pathogens.
“We study rivers where humans have caused changes, like constructing dams or decreasing water quality. Because of this, there are more thermal units in the streams, so the streams are warming up more than they used to. Essentially, we look at rivers that we have manipulated in some way to understand the effects on the fish and their pathogens,” explains Bartholomew.
Bartholomew’s projects include working on large rivers like the Deschutes, and she has been working on a long-term project on the Klamath River for the last 15 years.
While Bartholomew is an accomplished scientist, she is also an artist. Bartholomew does a lot of collage and photographic screen printing on glass. Though her artwork spans a variety of topics, in the last fifteen years she has begun incorporating science into her artwork.
In her recent series, “Pages from a Naturalist’s Notebook,” Bartholomew depicts the process of “dissecting an ecosystem into its components and attempting to describe how they interact,” through combining photos, sketches, and text about a place.
Experimentation and problem-solving play a large role in Bartholomew’s research and artwork.
“There’s a lot of problem-solving in what I do in the studio, and science is the same way. For my piece in the microbiome show, I’m going to experiment with adding video to glass, because art is not static. The video adds a whole new dimension to it,” explains Bartholomew.
Incorporating video into her glasswork will allow Bartholomew to showcase some of the incredible things parasites do. The parasites Bartholomew works with, for example, release a toxin, similar to a jellyfish stinging cell. The toxin comes from a coiled filament wrapped up in a cell that is then ejected and attaches to the host.
“It’s a rapid firing movement. We’ve captured fantastic videos of it. These are the kinds of things the public doesn’t get to see, so it’s a really nice opportunity to share,” says Bartholomew.