Loyola University Chicago

Department of Biology

Biological Domains

An Installation of 14 Oil Paintings and LED Lights

Hunter Cole, 2016

Her most recently completed project is Biological Domains, a major installation of science inspired art on view in the third floor atrium of the Quinlan Life Sciences Education and Research Center.  This is the latest addition to the University’s permanent collection of public art at its Lakeshore campus.  This is an art installation covering a 2-story wall with fourteen (14) paintings and custom LED lighting.  Six (6) large painting with biological themes and eight (8) smaller paintings complete the design.  The installation reflects a broad array of biological topics including animal organ systems, plant development, malaria, bacteria, HIV, stem cell research, neurology, cell and molecular biology, invasive species and evolutionary themes. 

“Animals and Angels,” oil on canvas and LED lights (84 x 84 in.) Hunter Cole.
Upper Right Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


The largest square painting represents animals, their organ systems and some molecular biology techniques.  There is a central male and female figure connected by a heart.  The female figure is pregnant.  The arteries from the heart weave throughout the entire painting.  All the organs and cells pictured can relate to stem cell research and the careful consideration that needs to be taken when considering the source of stem cells.  Connected to the female is a kidney.  Lungs are pictured in the male’s chest.  One angel with orange hair and wings overlooks the male and female figures, and one angel is below the male and female figures.

An image of a choanoflagellate is next to the angel on the upper right.  A choanoflagellate is a single-celled eukaryotic organism that is evolutionary closely related to animals.  Eukaryotic cells contain membrane bound compartments called organelles, each with specific functions, as opposed to prokaryotic cells that do not contain membrane bound compartments.  Organisms with eukaryotic cells include animals, plants, fungi and protozoans.  Bacteria are organisms with prokaryotic cells.

A lower figure to the right of the man shows an exposed brain.  A nerve cell is connected to the central male figure and a lower female figure.

On the middle left a mother and daughter are shown sharing a mitochondrion to represent maternal mitochondrial inheritance.  The main DNA genome is located in the nucleus, an organelle in a eukaryotic cell.  A genome is an entire set of hereditary instructions encoded in DNA to create, run and maintain a living organism.  Half of the main DNA genome in the nucleus is inherited from the mother and half from the father.  A mitochondrion, another organelle in a eukaryotic cell, is commonly known as the “energy powerhouse of the cell.”  A mitochondrion also has its own DNA genome that a child inherits in its entirety from the mother without any contribution from the father.  A mitochondrion may have once been a free-living prokaryotic cell hence why it has its own genome.

The upper left and lower right boxes contain microarrays in this painting.  Microarrays can also be seen as separate smaller paintings in the installation, not part of the main six paintings.  There are a variety of types of microarrays with different functions.  DNA microarrays can detect levels of gene expression.  Protein microarrays can detect protein-protein interactions.  Antibody microarrays can be used to detect protein expression.

The background of the entire painting has carved into the paint short pieces of DNA to represent shotgun sequencing.  Shotgun sequencing is an efficient way to sequence the order of As, Ts, Gs and Cs in a genome.

There is a purple rabbit on the left and a blue rabbit on the right.


“Invasive Species Takeover,” oil on canvas and LED lights (40 in. circular diameter) Hunter Cole.
Upper Left Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


A total of four large circular paintings are included in this art installation.  One circular painting represents invasive species.  Invasive species are non-native to the ecosystem being considered and tend to cause harm in their new environment.  Invasive species are commonly introduced to new environments through human action either intentionally or accidentally.  Waves of water are in the background.  There are three female figures and a bird.  Invasive species in the painting include purple loosestrife, Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussel and the spiny water flea.


“Queen of Malaria,” oil on canvas and LED lights (40 in. circular diameter) Hunter Cole.
Middle Left Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


A second circular painting represents aspects of malaria.  A pregnant female figure is being bitten by a mosquito.  Malaria is particularly threatening to young children and women that are pregnant for the first time.  A liver is pictured in the center of the painting since part of the life cycle of the malaria parasite is in the liver.  Infection with Plasmodium causes malaria.  Pictured in the background are sporozoites, a form Plasmodium takes in the life cycle.  Sporozoites are typically the infective agent introduced into a host.  There are healthy and sickle shaped red blood cells depicted relating the resistance to malaria conferred on people with the sickle cell trait.  The “Queen of Malaria” wears the crown.  A brown rabbit is resting on the pregnant female figure.


“Infectious Agents: Viruses and Bacteria,” oil on canvas and LED lights (40 in. circular diameter) Hunter Cole.
Middle Right Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


A third circular painting represents viruses, bacteria and their hosts.  From bacteria to humans all living organisms can become a host for a viral infection.  The female figure on the right is pictured with HIV surrounding her face.  The middle female figure is wearing Tobacco mosaic virus in purple on her head.  Also coming out of her head in red is bacteriophage, a virus that infect bacteria.  The female figure to the left is adorned with adenovirus in red and ebola in orange.  Adenovirus can cause cold-like symptoms.  Carved into the background of the painting is the bacteria E. coli.  The bacteria streptococci surrounds the brown rabbit.


“Queen of Organelles,” oil on canvas and LED lights (40 in. circular diameter) Hunter Cole.
Lower Right Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


The fourth circular painting represents a eukaryotic cell and organelles contained in the cell.  Eukaryotic cells contain membrane bound compartments called organelles, each with specific functions, as opposed to prokaryotic cells that do not contain membrane bound compartments.  The entire painting is one cell.  The outermost boarder of the painting is a phospholipid bilayer containing transmembrane proteins.  The phospholipids bilayer is a selectively permeable membrane that regulates what enters and leaves the cell.  Transmembrane proteins can also regulate substances entering and leaving the cell.

There is a central female figure.  In the upper part of the female figure is a nucleus, the organelle containing the main DNA genome.  Connected to the nucleus is the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).  The ER is an organelle involved in the synthesis, modification and transport of cellular materials.  The rough ER is studded with ribosomes.  Ribosomes synthesize proteins.  Ribosomes themselves are made out of ribosomal RNA and proteins.  Below the ER are lysosomes and the Golgi apparatus.  Lysosomes are organelles with digestive enzymes that break down macromolecules.  The Golgi apparatus is an organelle that processes and packages macromolecules for cell secretion or use within the cell.  Underneath the Golgi apparatus is a chloroplast.  A chloroplast is an organelle in green algae and plants that conducts photosynthesis.  To the upper and lower left of the female figure are mitochondria, an organelle known as the “energy powerhouse of the cell.”  The background of the painting contains RNAs with secondary structure which can also represent small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA).


“Plants and Sunflower Pollen,” oil on canvas and LED lights (60 x 60 in.) Hunter Cole.
Lower Left Painting
Photo Credit: John Faier


This painting represents the study of plants.  To the right in the painting is an archegonium with an egg and many sperm in the background that are traveling towards the egg.  An archegonium is a multicellular, often flask-shaped, egg-producing organ occurring in mosses, ferns, and most gymnosperms.  One female figure is connected to the archegonium and is looking at the young girl central female figure.  Chara, a type of green algae, adorns the young girl’s head.  Her skirt is purple loosestrife, an invasive species.  To the right of the girl is a female gametophyte (will produce the egg) in flowering plants.  Behind the young girl is a chloroplast, an organelle in green algae and plants that conducts photosynthesis.  Coming out of the chloroplast are fern leaves.  The green heart-shaped structure on the left is a fern gametophyte, a stage in the fern life cycle.  Above the fern gametophyte is an enlarged sunflower pollen grain that looks like a sun.  To the right of the sunflower pollen grain is a pine pollen grain.  The smaller yellow dots represent sunflower pollen grains.   There are two rabbits.  The left rabbit is facing a purple embryo.  The right rabbit faces the female gametophyte in flowering plants.  There are many sunflowers.