Protean Self – Interpretive Guide

This show is the work of an international collaboration of artists and scientists exploring the interface between social hardship, technological advance and health. You can learn more about us at

Hanging in the main windows are two banners by Elizabeth Greisman. Elizabeth has been extending her work on stem cells, their discovery by Dr. James Till and the importance of “ah hah’ moments to the field of dance. Elizabeth has worked with the National Ballet – cross fertilization through this work has expanded her understanding of the two defining features of stem cells – the ability to regenerate and the ability to differentiate.

At the entrance of the museum there are two canvases painted in oil by Elizabeth Greisman. This first is her tour de force portrait of Dr. James Till. The palette used (including purple for the forehead) is designed to communicate the inspiration of this famous Canadian scientist. Also shown is a lively and colourful piece which represents the active ability of stem cells.

On entering the museum, you will find a banner with an original written piece by Dr. James Till, produced for this show. Dr. Till has become a tireless advocate for Open Access. His words speak for themselves.

Inside the cloak room there is the work of Bach being interpreted by collective member Dr. Mario Ostrowski. Dr. Ostrowski is an HIV researcher and clinician from University of Toronto. If you listen carefully you will hear hints of regeneration and differentiation. As Dr. Ostrowski points out, “Science can describe nature elegantly but is limited as it approaches the truth, whereby artistic exploration may define hidden truths that evade the tools of Science.” Two banners hang. The first contains a recent publication of a methodology for creating a macrophage model to improve our understanding necessary to create a vaccine for TB. We wanted to use the work on stem cells to explore how understanding in the stem cell arena could enhance our ability to create a new vaccine for a global killer, tuberculosis. Another collective member, Dr. Ellen Sims produced the piece on the second banner, again reminding the academic community of the importance of paying attention to Open Access.

In the nurses room, two large painting by Elizabeth Greisman hang. These works represent a continuation of Ms. Greisman’s exploration of the space between dance and stem cell science.

In the iron lung room we have two videos. On the large TV is a work available on Youtube called Stem Cell shorts. This video was produced by students of Dr. James Till and is narrated by Dr. Till himself. The “Infinite Corridor” is being shown as its first release in the current show. This work is produced by our very talented collective member, Dr. Hortense Gerardo. Movement is explored, specifically the evolution of bipedal movement. This work is a foundational piece as we begin to explore the importance of intercellular movements in the formation of stem cell colonies. The portrait of Dr. Ernest McCulloch, collaborator of Dr. James Till and co-discoverer of the stem cell was painted post-humously by Elizabeth Greisman.

Across the hall we find the light box work of collective member Emei Ma. Ms. Ma visualizes the complex intercellular interplay in diversity found within hematologic stem cell organizational systems. The music in this room is by Tyson Kerr – again the musical expression of regeneration and differentiation should be perceivable by the attentive listener. Aaron Lin, a first year Queen’s student presents his book on “Cellular Trojan Horses deployed by Mycobacterium tuberculosis”. In this work, Aaron begins to examine how our understanding of stem cells can expand our ability to combat the global scourge of tuberculosis.

In the main old entrance we have hanging a mural which is composed of 15 pieces of 18”x24” paper. This work, in progress, is perhaps the piece with the most learning. We wanted to have a team/collective building exercise. Pieces of paper were mailed to many corners of the world. There were troubles. Some didn’t arrive, some arrived late, all seemed to be somewhat damaged. Before sending the pieces afield the mural was constructed on the floor of the Wychwood barn outside of Elizabeth Greisman’s studio. A unifying and undulating line was applied in heavy black paint. Papers were labelled and sent out with instructions. These instructions were not always followed so that we needed for some to fill in the second side of the paper. We wanted portraiture to be an important element of the works from our collective artists and guests. You will find in the mural some contributions by prominent local artists – Bob Blenderman and Rebecca Soudant.

In the drawing room we show pieces from guest contributor Pieter Doef a well known painter and art therapist from Merrickville. As Pieter recently entered his 90 th year we figure that he embodies stem cell regeneration. Also in this room is a collection of books which are meant to act as artefacts to stimulate creative thinking.

In the hallway outside of the drawing room, Emei again demonstrates her exquisite attention to detail and interest in science communication. The game she developed can help the learner acquaint themselves with probability theory, a critical element of scientific understanding. Three banners hang in the hallways – first is an electron micrograph of three stem cells. Note the complex intracellular architecture. Second is a reproduction of the critical paper of Drs. Till and McCulloch. We refer to this as the 1963 paper as this was the year it was submitted. You will note, that the paper was published in 1964. The third banner has a poem by associate collective member Jacqueline Leitch. This poem is challenging, a call to action for scientific integrity. Four portraits of Dr. Till on paper by Elizabeth represent different periods of his scientific development.

We hope you enjoy the show.

Nascent Art Science Collective