Grown Up

Caelan Grace McCollum, Fiber and Humanistic Studies, 2024

Caelan Grace McCollum was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She quickly developed a love for art and making through exposure to the many museums and deep creative culture of Los Angeles. Majoring both in Fiber and Humanistic Studies, Caelan seeks to make art that encourages the viewer to ask deeper questions about their relationships with themself, others, and the world.

Project Overview

I’m a Grown Up seeks to question what it means to experience childhood and to leave that girlhood behind. At what point is one ever truly “free” from childhood? How can you tell? What has to fade into the background to make that distinction? Through experimenting with imagery from my own childhood using an intrinsically formal media I attempt to resurrect that childhood self. Asking these cells to be an extension of an earlier version of me through a shared visual language and echoed life cycle.


To achieve the images in the petri dishes I applied E. Coli cells that were genetically engineered to produce red fluorescent protein and yellow fluorescent proteins using thin paintbrushes and toothpicks. Since, you can’t remove the cells from the agar after application I utilized Adobe Illustrator to create the design prior to stepping foot in the lab. I was then able to print these images off and trace over them due to the clear bottom of the petri dishes. For the central image in the rectangular pyrex dish I attempted to use a stencil made of Kapton film and laser-cut to produce a bitmapped image. I then fogged RFP cells onto the agar after placing and smoothing the stencil into place. In a previous attempt I had used a paintbrush and glass rod to flick the cells over the stencil; but, given the uneven spread and visible contamination I had decided to fog the cells onto the agar in hopes of a clearer image. Though in the end result the method of fogging appears to have applied too many cells and leeched under the stencil.

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