This series of cast glass panels of zoo microbiology is installed at the Oregon Zoo Veterinarian Hospital in Portland, OR. Also installed into the building is a series of carved terra cotta panels (depicting the exteriors of some of the zoo animals). These are set into the exterior of the building alongside the entrance.
This artwork installation was inspired by the beauty and mystery of the animal world at the Oregon Zoo hospital – in particular the contrast between the surface views that we are familiar with, and the hidden interior worlds that the zoo vets see in caring for the animals.
Zoo veterinarians Mitch Finnegan and Margot Monti kindly agreed to photograph and send images of some of their more interesting microscopic investigations. Over the span of a year a vast array of images were sent to the studio, including such classics as: “Mycobacterium avium in pygmy rabbit,” “Condor coccidia and uric acic crystals,” and “Lymphoblasts and smudge-o-cyte.” These were subsequently translated into low-relief cast glass panels. First their images were carved in clay and then high temperature molds were used to cast them in clear glass. Colored glass frits were sifted into the molds to create the colors and these were fused with the glass.
The exterior panels depict a series of textures and surfaces of the exteriors of the animals residing at the Oregon Zoo. These are carved in architectural terra cotta and are set into the exterior masonry portion of the building. The two contrasting groups of sculptures (the transparent interior glass castings and the solid opaque terra cotta carvings) reflect the contrasting spaces of the building (interior/exterior and opaque/transparent).
Within the exterior band of carvings is a small window that lets light into the bathroom. A glass panel has been installed here to take advantage of the natural light and provide a contemplative image for the restroom user – “Rodent mite with egg from raptor feces,” a microscopic sample taken from the zoo’s very own condor poop.