The Art Of Stem Cells: An inner look from the curator herself. . .

This blog post was written by Leslie Davis, the curator of The Art Of Stem Cells. She explains her inspiration to curate an art exhibit that brings together two distinct worlds of art and science. The Orange County Contemporary Art (OCCCA) exhibit is part of a growing SciArt culture where artist and scientist are brought together.

OCCCA is located in the heart of the Downtown Santa Ana Artist Village. The exhibition runs from Sept. 6th to Oct. 10th. A special event will take place on Oct. 4th from 6:00 - 10:00pm.

OCCCA is located in the heart of the Downtown Santa Ana Artist Village. The exhibition runs from Sept. 6th to Oct. 10th. A special event will take place on Oct. 4th from 6:00 – 10:00pm.

I first became interested in using my art for medicine and education after reading the work of a “young Harvard med student” in the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracey Kidder. The novel told a story told of how one determined man helped the plight of people in Haiti living with Tuberculosis. He was successful in bringing first world treatment to third world citizens through his worldwide organization, Partners in Health. From this inspiration, I created the “virus” show, World in Collision, in 2005, with conceptual metal and glass sculptures on HIV, TB, Malaria and Breast cancer. I interviewed the researchers and painted 4′ x 5′ portraits of them, banded with images of the viruses. I wanted to bring recognition to these dedicated scientists who give so much of their lives to saving ours and to educate the public about their work.

The rest is history. I remember when Mission Hospital came to OCCCA, in 2007, and asked if we could do some art about their new digital imaging building. The exhibit was called, The Art of Imaging. I wanted to do something for the Veterans that were returning home paralyzed and with TBI. I was looking for researchers that were trying to help them. Junjko Cora, a dermatologist’s, at the Beckman Laser Institute, said she knew of an annual Spinal Cord Conference at UCI and made a call to get me on the list. I went and was befriended by a post doc, Katja Piltti. She found me in the crowd and asked my interest in Stem Cells and I told her about my vision and said, “you have to meet my boss Aileen Anderson.”Aileen and her husband Brian Cummings agreed to meet me for lunch and literally taught me what Stem Cell research was all about. I went home now dedicated to make art for the opening of the Sue and Bill Gross Hall, Regeneration exhibit. The Regeneration show at OCCCA opened the week after the building’s opening reception in May 2010. It was so well received by the community and UCI that I began thinking about how to continue the process of recognizing the scientists and educating the community about their work and perhaps bringing funding to the Stem Cell Research Center.

Peter Donovan, previous Director of SCRC, asked me at the first “Center Friend Raiser” if I could help him with a future art show and I said yes. This is if he agreed to let me bring some artists to the Labs to meet directly with the researchers and collaborate in ways to make conceptual art about their work. He said yes and the result has been the Art Of Stem Cells event. It opened to a crowd of over 2,000 with great critical art reviews noting the uniqueness and validity of a show that blurred the lines between art and science, researcher and artist. I received Colliding Worlds by Arthur Miller, from one of my virus researchers, while I was installing the show. He speaks of a new movement that merges Technology, Science and Art, in which he believes will be our new culture. I have to whole heartedly agree with him! I hope you will tell your friends and neighbors to come to the OCT 4th event where you can meet with the artists and researchers themselves. Next week will be the final week of the exhibit which will end on October 10th.


Leslie Davis was born and raised in California. She attended the Pilchuck School of Glass, Stanwood and Pratt Fine Art Center in Seattle Washington and Santa Ana College. Her passion is using glass as a medium to explore the interaction between light and movement. By 2010 she had met UCI stem cell researchers Aileen Anderson, Brian Cummings, and Peter Donovan. A new passion for Stem Cell Research was born. The Art Of Stem Cells will be the OCCCA’s 4th showing of conceptual medical art.

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