03-25 glass coronavirus

[Image above] Glass represents viruses from a new perspective compared to artificially colored microbiology imagery. Credit: South China Morning Post, YouTube

From pottery and art to medicine and energy, we truly live in a glass world.

Often people take glass for granted because its use is so ubiquitous. But some of the finest applications of glass are ones in which it gets us to consider things in new ways, such as bottle houses.

If you’re looking for other thought-provoking applications of glass, look no further than British artist Luke Jerram.

Luke Jerram: The famous artist you’ve never heard of

Jerram is “probably the most famous artist you’ve never heard of,” according to a profile by Bloomberg Television. Jerram is an installation artist, meaning he specializes in creating three-dimensional works that are often site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space.

Some of Jerram’s most well-known artwork includes Play Me, I’m Yours, which involves more than 2,000 street pianos installed in over 65 cities around the world, and Museum of the Moon, which involves touring a seven-meter-diameter moon sculpture in both indoor and outdoor venues.

But Jerram has garnered a lot of attention recently for a very different project—Glass Microbiology.

Glass Microbiology: Capturing virus in glass

Glass Microbiology is a body of glass work that Jerram has developed since 2004. Each piece in the collection depicts a microbe, typically disease-causing viruses such as AIDS, smallpox, and Zika.

The pieces, created in partnership with scientific institutions, are meant to offer an alternative representation of viruses to artificially colored microbiology imagery.

“[The glass viruses are] created transparent and colorless because viruses are actually smaller than the wavelength of light, so they don’t actually have any color,” Jerram explains in a South China Morning Post video. “So I’m hoping this artwork will help people understand what it really looks like.”

In the BCC interview below, Jerram discusses the work in more detail. For a closer look at the glassblowing process used to make the viruses, check out this Wired article.

Credit: oldchina100, YouTube

Capturing SARS-CoV-2

It is no surprise that Jerram’s latest addition to Glass Microbiology is SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. What is surprising, though, is that he created the piece before COVID-19 became a big topic in the news.

“Eight weeks ago, I was contacted by a university over in America to create COVID-19 to visualize their research,” Jerram says in the South China Morning Post video, “and this was before the pandemic really took hold.”

Now that COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, Jerram plans to donate his commission for this piece to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), a medical humanitarian organization that assists developing countries affected by endemic diseases.

See the coronavirus sculpture in the video below.

Credit: South China Morning Post, YouTube