Lace and Place: Bacterial Drawing

Starling Wolfrum, Painting, 2023

Studying painting and children’s illustration with an interest in natural materials and biological structures and processes.

Project Overview

Lace Sets: For this project, I initially thought of lace. Lace is a complex and delicate structure with ties to notions of elegance. I wanted to contrast lace doilies found in dining settings with the bacteria as medium. Bacteria are well suited to delicacy and beauty while also being somewhat repellent. I made a lace pattern with words hidden inside it and printed this pattern onto two elegant dining dishes.

In / Stability: While thinking about the way that bacteria grows and changes, I also decided to make a diptych of two buildings: The apartment building I lived in with my mom for over 20 years, and the last of seven rentals I lived in with my dad, who was evicted from this house shortly after I moved out. I contrast the experience of stability to the instability of living with a very mentally ill and inconsistent parent through documenting bacterial growth and change on one plate, seen in video documentation.

In / Stability


To make the Lace Sets, I originally drew digitally on an eight sectioned mirrored canvas. The design includes words which I intended to hide within the lace structure. After completing this, I converted it to a bitmap and lasercut a stencil, made up of small punched holes. The stencil was then washed, autoclaved, and carefully applied to set agar. After 24 hours of growth, I removed the stencil, re-sterilized it, and applied it to my next plate. I used CRISPR modified e-coli to get a white color on the glass plate, and a red florescent protein (RFP) on the ceramic plate to mirror the color of the strawberries on the plate. For the In/Stability plates, I drew freehand using the RFP. After a week, the cells in all of my plates had begun to die and spread, which I used for the documentation of one of my plates which fades in the video I made.

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