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Stephen Bradley & Kathy Marmor
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” William Blake
Dr. Keith Porter was the chair of the UMBC Biology Department from 1984 to 1988, and he was one of the first scientists to study whole cells with the electron microscope and is considered the “Father of Cell Biology.” While he was at the Rockefeller Institute he produced the first image of an intact cell, made possible by his development of an innovative slicing technique and specimen preparation for viewing and photographing with the electron microscope.
Porter’s in-depth experience in experimental embryology and histology, along with his talent to interpret these highly magnified images, enabled him to infer the functional activities of cell organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum, which he discovered and named, and microtubules. Porter was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1977.
Steve Bradley and Kathy Marmor have curated together the art installation titled The Glass Knife at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery. The title refers to the sharp wedged shaped glass tool used by Porter to prepare a tissue sample.
The two media artists have structured their installation to illuminate Keith Porter’s life-long relationship with the micro world of cells. The Glass Knife selects elements from Porter’s archive to build a unified series of sculptures that allude to Porter’s workstation that “sees” the cell and its organelles and the potential applications that Porter imagined. The Glass Knife, with its multi-dimensional frame integrates elements from the Porter’s archive.
“He had an almost uncanny ability to look at static electron monographs of cells and “see” what the cell was doing, or at least what it was equipped to do.” Dr. Lee D. Peachey
In creating The Glass Knife, Bradley and Marmor propose a model of imagination that embraces a vision mediated by technology and that extends our seeing. The artists as curators seek to offer metaphoric insight into Porter’s scientific inquiry made possible with his ground-breaking use of the electron microscope that changed the world of cellular science.
[banner image: first culture experiment at the Chesapeake Arts Center studio, broth was from coconut water. Glass knife images from the Porter Center for Imaging, UMBC]