CONFOCAL LASER MICROSCOPY: Laser-microscope images become public art

Images from a confocal laser microscope are being transformed into artworks to be projected onto public buildings in Portsmouth, U.K.

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Images from a confocal laser microscope are being transformed into artworks to be projected onto public buildings in Portsmouth, U.K. The project is sponsored by Point Source, based in nearby Hamble. The company designs and manufactures high-performance fiber-optic laser delivery systems and lasers for commercial applications, including confocal microscopes.

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Called “Treasure Island: A Forensic Investigation of a City,” the project is based on a collection of 100 artworks generated by artist Seran Kubisa. Samples are taken to the Biomedical Imaging Unit at the Southampton General Hospital, where they are analyzed with a laser-scanning confocal microscope manufactured by Leica (Wetzlar, Germany). The microscope captures the natural fluorescence and part of the image is selected by the artist to create a picture.

“This is a fascinating project that promotes science and art at the same time, in a way that is accessible and inspiring for local people and visitors,” says David Pointer, Point Source managing director. “We are excited about playing a part in promoting the powerful fascination of laser microscopy to the wider public.”

Seran Kubisa has been involved in science-as-art projects before, including images from the Hubble space telescope and from neuroscience. Samples for the “Treasure Island” images will be provided by community groups and other organizations in Portsmouth over the first 12-month phase of the project, which started on May 7. A pilot phase has already been completed using samples as varied as a piano, a Bible, a feather, and a concert program.

The top micrograph, shown here, is of a sample of gesso, plaster, and glue from the frame of an oil painting by Richard Poate of Portsmouth that is stored in Portsmouth City Museum (a portrait of Thomas Bachelor, who was treasurer of the Beneficial Society of Portsmouth); the center image shows a sample of rust taken from a Napoleonic cannon ball in the Portsmouth City Museum; while the bottom image is of a piece of stitching on a silk chemise with lace trimming (circa 1910) owned by a resident of Portsmouth. To see the rest of the images, visit www.cityforensics.com. (Photos courtesy of Point Source)

Bridget Marx

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