Art Inspired By Worms

UMKC Gallery of Art exhibition features a collaboration between art and science
Planarians are featured in the UMKC Gallery of Art exhibition

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Gallery of Art and The Stowers Institute for Medical Research present a new exhibition, “Body of Inquiry: The Art, Biology and Being of Flatworms,” with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the UMKC Gallery of Art, Room 203 in the Fine Arts Building, 5015 Holmes St., Kansas City, Missouri.

The exhibition asks the questions, What if you could clone yourself from a small piece of your fingertip? What if you could self-regenerate? What if you were essentially immortal? Scientists have found the answers in the planarian flatworm and local scientists are sharing that through art.

“For the planarian flatworm, these human fantasies are reality,” said Nowotarski. “And they’re all around us all over the world, from fountains in Barcelona, to lakes in Mexico, to nearby Brush Creek.”   

The exhibition is a collaboration between art and science, two seldom, yet undeniably intertwined, fields. In the multi-disciplinary exhibition “Body of Inquiry,” sensory perception, curiosity, and creative problem-solving converge in order to provide both valuable insights into an unseen world, and beautiful art from an unlikely source.

Four intergenerational local artists put the exhibition together. They include retired Kansas City Art Institute fiber chair Jason Pollen, recent KCAI graduate William Plummer, and Stowers Institute artists and research scientists Mol Mir and Steph Nowotarski. They wanted to understand and expand upon the connection between art and science, so they plunged into local waterways and emerged with a greater appreciation for the complexities found there. They explored the role of the planarian flatworm in our local ecosystem then translated their findings to a broader scope. This exploration facilitated the cross-disciplinary dialog which led to Body of Inquiry.

This immersive installation celebrates the joy of discovery, inviting visitors to engage with and observe planarian flatworms in a variety of perspectives. Explore our interpretations and examine your own through the use of video projection, live planarians, and visual responses from each artist. This exploration offers insight and helps to answer the question: what can these flatworms teach us about being human?

The UMKC Gallery of Art hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibition runs through March 7 at the UMKC Gallery of Art.

Published: Jan 27, 2020

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