Artist Beverly St. Clair uses quilts to encode genetic information: it's beautiful and comfy!
My idea for genome quilts grew from the juxtaposition of two experiences at Wesleyan University in November 2001. First I viewed an exhibit of work by Anni Albers, an artist I have admired for many years. The show included her serigraphs of triangles arranged in a grid. I was struck by their similarity to quilt patterns. The next day I attended a lecture about the Human Genome Project and was impressed by the beautiful shapes of the proteins illustrated and the interesting patterns made by the microarrays. I realized that I could use a simple quilt block to represent each of the four bases in DNA: cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine. A square bisected into a light and dark triangle is rotated in four orientations to resemble the letters C, G, A, and T. These blocks are placed in sequences determined by the base sequence, so one can read the genetic code by looking at the quilt. The color and fabric choices influence the overall design. The quilts are visually pleasing, with their strong colors and seemingly traditional design, but they hide and reveal an entirely other construct of information.