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invisible visibility / viral

"High technology and social awareness meld successfully in (art)n's beautiful but awesome stealth negative constructions. Vibrant purples and blues radiate from their cross-shaped sculpture titled "Messiah". Hands, faces, and symbols take on the three-dimensional depth found in laser imagery. The unusual presence of this piece is seductive. However, the power-packed punch of this work strikes once the viewer learns that the abstract shapes are micro-images of the actual AIDS virus. The same impact is produced by "Papilloma Virus, 3rd Edition". (art)n's pieces represent some of the most successful and inventive uses of this advanced technology."

Elaine A. King, Ph.D.
Past Director, Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery & Associate Professor, History of Art, 1990

Rough Waters: In Depth

The original image titled Rough Waters was awarded first place for photography in the 2010 Visualization Challenge. The image depicts a false-colored atomic force micrograph of two types of molecules forming a mixed self-assembled monolayer on a gold surface. The two molecules differ in height by 0.2 nanometers, giving the appearance of ripples. These “self-assembled monolayers” come with a sulfur head that clings to the surface and a tail that sticks out into the environment. One molecule has a tail that consists of carbon and hydrogen, while the other consists of carbon and fluorine. The rich shades of turquoise and indigo are artificial, but the choppy waves are real. They are formed by millions of molecules arranging themselves at the interface, and are caught in the act of separating into regions of dissimilar molecules

Rough Waters.jpg

Rough Waters: In Depth, 2014

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Chris Kemp and Diana Torres

Dr. Seth B. Darling, Center for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Laboratory
Steven J. Sibener, Carl William Eisendrath Distinguished Service Professor, The University of Chicago

Virtual Photograph/PHSCologram: Duratrans, Kodalth, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

Original Image:

Rough Waters (First Place, American Association for the Advancement of Science/NSF International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge Photography Category), Seth B. Darling and Steven J. Sibener, Science (Cover Article) 331, 852 (2011)

the Ebola virus

Ebola viruses belong to the Filoviridae virus family because of their string-like appearance, filum being Latin for thread or string. The outer layer is the viral membrane that holds the virus together, while inside lies the spiral of the viral RNA, the virus’ genetic material that is decorated with nucleoproteins. The nucleoproteins wrap the RNA into its helical shape. The knobs on the surface of the virus are glycoproteins that attach the virus to the outer surface of human cells and help the virus to sneak its way into the cells by breaching the cell’s own membrane.

Dr. Lukas Tamm and the Center for Membrane Biology at the University of Virginia, specifically studies the Ebola virus’s method of breaching other cell membranes. This is something the virus is incredibly apt at doing and is a major factor that leads to its rapid spread within the human body. The more that is understood for Dr. Tamm’s research, the better the chances are at finding an end to this deadly disease.

The Ebola Virus, 2014

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Chris Kemp, and Diana Torres

Dr. Lukas Tamm, Center for Membrane Biology, University of Virginia

Virtual Photograph/PHSCologram: Duratrans, Kodalth, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches


the magnificent micelle


Funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, University of Chicago IME Director and Professor, Matthew Tirrell and colleagues designed a self-assembling multifunctional nonoparticle. 


The Magnificent Micelle, Panel 1, 2, 3, 2013

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Chris Kemp and Diana Torres

Matthew Tirrell, Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME), University of Chicago

Peter Allen, Scientific Visualization Director, UC Santa Barbara

Digital PHSCologram Sculpture and Base: Duratrans, Kodalith, and Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

This creation is known as a micelle and is a lipid-based collection of molecules that form a sphere. The micelle has a peptide, a piece of protein, on its surface, and that peptide binds to the surface of the plaque. This versatile, flexible nano particle can deliver diagnostic and therapeutic biofunctionality in vivo, and its size, long life span, and targeted peptides make it a good candidate to treat various pathological tissues. Ellen Sandor and (art)n worked with Tirrell and his colleagues, along with Allen on a three-sided PHSCologram sculpture with images depicting this incredible nanoparticle. 


The future of precise and targeted biological therapy is on the horizon and (art)n is proud to be visualizing such innovation.


nanoscape ii: viral assembly


Nanoscape II: Viral Assembly, 1999

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Fernando Orellana and Nichole Maury

Arthur Olson, The Scripps Research Institute

Virtual Photograph/PHSCologram: Duratrans, Kodalth, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

This image depicts the process of assembly of a poliovirus capsid. The viral capsid, or outer shell is com- posed of sixty copies each of four distinct protein subunits, which self-assemble into a spherical particle with the icosahedral symmetry of a soccer ball.The depiction shows the final pentameric sub-assembly (composed of five copies each of the four chains) docking to the almost complete shell. The coloring is radially depth cued to emphasize the hills and valleys of the viruses outer surface.

nanoscape i: encounter in the blood stream

Nanoscape I: Encounter in the Blood Stream, 1998

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers, Janine Fron and Fernando Orellana
Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Duratrans, Kodalith, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

This image depicts a battle in the bloodstream, between molecules of the immune system and a viral invader. It represents a volume of blood plasma 75 nanometers on a side (one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter). Within the three-dimensional image, antibodies (Y- and T-shaped molecules in light blue and pink) are binding to a virus (the large green spherical assembly at the right), labelling it for destruction. The three-dimensional computer image shows all macromolecules present in the blood plasma at a magnification of about 10,000,000 times. At this size, individual atoms are about the size a beebee, and a red blood cell would fill an entire building.

The three-dimensional model depicted within the Phscologram was created by Arthur Olson using software developed in the Olson laboratory as part of the Atoms to Cells project, for modeling and visualizing complex molecular environments. This model is composed of over 450 individual protein domains, ranging in size from the 60 protomers making up the large, spherical poliovirus (in green) to a single, tiny insulin molecule (in magenta). The model was constructed using atomic level descriptions for each molecule, for a total of roughly 1.5 million atoms. Detailed surfaces were computed for each type of protein using MSMS by Michel Sanner, which were then smoothed to a lower resolution using the HARMONY spherical harmonic surfaces developed by Bruce Duncan. Each type of protein was then copied and placed, either with symmetry or randomly, using the SymmetryServer developed by Tom Macke. The image was rendered using the AVS dataflow visualization environment. To produce the PHSCologram 64 different views of the scene were rendered, simulating different positions of the viewer's eyes. The three-dimensional effect is achieved by slicing and interleaving the views vertically across the image, and using a plastic sheet with narrow vertical lines to channel a different view to each eye. 

NanoscapeI 2.jpg

hiv protease active site

HIV Protease Active Site.JPEG

A Potential anti-AIDS drug inhibits the activity of the HIV Protease enzyme by occupying its "active site". This enzyme is necessary for reproduction of the virus. Data for this image was supplied by Dr. John Erickson.


"of great and unusual beauty . . . the contrast between beauty and the horror of the plague confounds you."

- Robert Duffy, St. Louis Post Dispatch

HIV Protease Active Site, 1992

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers, Janine Fron and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches

HIV Prostease

rhinovirus ion channel

Ionic strengths and pH influence the assembly and disassembly of virus particles. This model of a putative ion channel in Human Rhinovirus may help in the design of antiviral and anti-AIDS drugs.

Rhinovirus Ion Channel.JPEG

Rhinovirus Ion Channel, 1992

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers, Janine Fron and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

30 x 30 inches


hiv protease with inhibitor

The HIV Virus, also known as the AIDS virus needs a molecule called a protease enzyme in order to make copies of itself.  It the laboratory, this enzyme can be prevented from working by using a possible new drug molecule called A74704.

HIV Protease with Inhibitor, 1991

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer
TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

HIV Protease w:Inhibitor.JPEG
HIV With inhibitor

hiv reconstruction

A computer rendered image of HIV, which is believed to cause AIDS.  People infected with this virus can lose much of their body’s defenses for fighting off other infections.  Therefore, HIV can be a deadly virus.

Shown in this image is the core of the virus, which looks like a cone, and the outer shell of the virus, which looks like a ring or a band around the core.  The outer shell is really sphere-shaped, but in this view the sphere has been cut in front and in back, leaving only a center ring.  The HIV Virus is too small to see with an ordinary light microscope.  This image was created by using an electron microscope int he same way doctors do x-ray CT scans of patients to construct a 3D picture.  This image is among the clearest yet produced in order to construct 3D model. Such pictures give scientists clues to ways of attacking the virus to prevent it from spreading in the body and doing its damage.  

HIV Reconstruction, 1991

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

HIV_Reconstruction 2.jpg
hiv reconstruction

human rhinovirus-14

Rhinovirus-14 is one of many viruses that can cause the common cold.  The outer shell you see here is made of four differently shaped pieced, visible in four different colors.

Human Rhinovirus-14, 1991
Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

TJ O’Donnell

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

Human Rhinovirus-14

herpes virus, 1990

A computer rendered image of the herpes virus, which is spread by physical intimate contact. A black and white photograph of a baby who died of the virus was scanned in the background.

The Herpes  Virus shows the general structure of the virus summarizing information gained both by microscopic analysis and more abstract experimentation.

Herpes Virus, 1990

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer 

Dr. Bernard Roizman, University of ChicagoDr. Patricia Spear, Northwestern University

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

Herpes Virus

papilloma virus, third edition, 1990

A computer rendered image of the papilloma virus, which is spread by physical intimate contact.  When left untreated, this virus can cause several kinds of cancer in women, including cervical cancer.  In the background is a mammogram image of a woman who died of breast cancer, which can be seen in the lower right. 


Papilloma Virus, Third Edition, 1990

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Donna Cox, NCSA, University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignTom DeFanti and Dan Sandin, Electronic Visualization Lab, University of Illinois at Chicago

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

Papilloma virus



A computer rendered image of the adenovirus, which causes a flu-like infection.  In underdeveloped countries of the world, it is one of the leading cause of death in young children.  At the outer surface of the virus is a transparent blue shell, the inner core resembles a blue-green ball.  The protein of the virus is shown in blue and a red icosahedron highlights the icosahedral nature of the coat.  The putative genetic material is shown in cyan, inside the protein coat.  The exterior of the virus has the symmetry of an icosahedron, an object with twenty triangular faces.  An icosahedron is shown inside with pink sticks to highlight this symmetry. 

The adenovirus is too small to be seen with an ordinary light microscope.  This image was created with data collected by means of a powerful electron microscope collected by Roger Burnett and Phoebe Stewart Hexem of the Wistar Institute. 

©1990 David Goodsell and Arthur J. Olson, Scripps Research Institute. 

Adenovirus, 1990

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer
Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

aids virus, third edition

"The AIDS Virus is clearly the most talked about piece in our collection . . . while this country has the fourth highest concentration of HIV infection in the world, Zimbabweans are still generally reluctant to talk about the disease. The PHSCologram offers us a chance to discuss AIDS in an informal, less threatening way, but nonetheless important way. Zimbabweans are drawn to the technology that the piece evokes. Americans are stunned by the artistic feel, the vivid color and amazing shape of 'the disease’.” 

Anne Marie Macdonald, U.S. Department of State Art in Embassies Program, for exhibition in American Embassy: Ambassador McDonald, Harare, Zimbabwe 1998–2000

AIDS Virus, Third Edition, 1989 -90

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Dan Sandin and Tom DeFanti, Electronic Visualization Lab, School of Art and Design, University of Illinois at Chicago

Special thanks to Kevin Maginnis & Dr. Roberta Glick

Virtual Photograph/PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalth, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches


The first computer generated image of the AIDS virus, based on information available in 1987. A colorized CT scan of a person who died of AIDS, named Messiah, was scanned and colorized in the background. The AIDS Virus is an icon of hope and human tragedy, a beacon of art and science, an expression of freedom and democracy, an instrument of healing and collaboration.


(art)n's rendering confronts us with a portrait of what the AIDS Virus looks like. At first glance, we do not identify the portrait as a deadly virus. It's a bright, colorful, lively abstraction–a beautiful stranger with it's own will to dazzle and destroy. The collaboration of beauty and destruction within this art work confound both viewers and the artists who created the piece. The AIDS Virus was created by the process of collaboration. It is a dynamic way of working where limits of combined artistic freedom are unknown, but internally democratized by the limits of the technology used to express collective ideas. Every artist who worked on the AIDS Virus contributed to the overall vision–aesthetically, conceptually, and technically, providing a rich collection of ideas and approaches to realizing them that may not emerge when working singularly. The result is a collective artistic statement about how freedom of expression challenges where artists draw the lines when they are working with others and working with new technology and unknowns.

Polio i

A computer rendered image of the virus that causes polio. It shows how four different types of protein ,molecules (shown in blue, yellow, red, and green) come tougher to form the capsid, or the outer shell of the virus particle.  There are sixty copies of each of these molecules in the complete shell.  Some of the proteins are left out of its image so you can see the inside of the shell.   

The polio virus is too small to be seen with an ordinary microscope.  The three-dimensional structure was created using a special technique of X-ray crystallography to a 2.9 angstrom resolution by Jim Hogle and co-workers.  ©1990 Arthur J. Olson.

Polio I, 1989-90

Ellen Sandor & (art)n:  Stephan Meyers and Craig Ahmer

Arthur Olson and David Goodsell, The Scripps Research Institute

PHSCologram: Cibachrome, Kodalith, Plexiglas

24 x 20 inches

AIDS virus third edition
Polio I
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