Skip to main content
Table of Contents

November 2004

This work is from "Doilies," a series of framed sculptures, in which each pattern is based on the structure of a different virus. The designs are created using machine embroidery software, and the resulting images are stitched onto water-soluble fabric by a computerized sewing machine. When the fabric is dissolved, the remaining threads form a doily-like pattern.

The lace doily has traditionally been used to present romanticized designs and motifs from nature and domesticity. These objects would be heirlooms, handed down from one generation to the next. The combination of the microbial images with the traditional decorative object evokes the psychological heredity of cultural fears.

The series explores the domestication of microbial and biomedical imagery. Recent beauty fads, epidemics, and commercial products have brought this imagery into our living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Bioterrorism, SARS, and antibacterial soaps alike have all heightened our awareness of microbial hazards. These sculptures serve as a metaphor for the way we have adapted our everyday lives to these now everyday concerns. The delicate and inviting embroidered patterns stand at odds with the unsettling truth of our collective apprehension.

Laura Splan is a San Francisco-based artist. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of California, Irvine, where she originally studied Biological Sciences, and she recently received her Master of Fine Art in Sculpture from Mills College in Oakland, California, where she complimented her studio work with an independent study in the Microbiology Department. She works with a wide range of materials and explores perceptions of beauty and horror, comfort and discomfort. Using anatomical and medical imagery as a point of departure, she explores these dualities and our ambivalence towards the human body and its biological functions.

Image Credit: Laura Splan (


The PLoS Medicine Debate


Doing New Research? Don't Forget the Old

Mike Clarke

Neglected Diseases

Blinding Trachoma: A Disease of Poverty

Pashtoon M Kasi, Ahmed I Gilani, Khabir Ahmad, Naveed Z Janjua

Health in Action

A Free Community Approach to Classifying Disease

Manuel B Graeber, James Lowe, Bishan Radotra

Related Articles

Policy Forum

Research in Translation

Enzyme Replacement in Gaucher Disease

Ernest Beutler

Case Report

Pure Red Cell Aplasia after 13 Years of Sodium Valproate, and Bone Marrow Suppression after 17 Years of Carbamazepine

Tiong The, Ratnavalli Kolla, Fitzroy Dawkins, Annapurni Jayam Trouth

Research Articles

A Randomised, Double-Blind, Controlled Vaccine Efficacy Trial of DNA/MVA ME-TRAP Against Malaria Infection in Gambian Adults

Vasee S Moorthy, Egeruan B Imoukhuede, Paul Milligan, Kalifa Bojang, Sheila Keating, Pauline Kaye, Margaret Pinder, Sarah C Gilbert, Gijs Walraven, Brian M Greenwood, Adrian S. V Hill

Related Articles

Limited Durability of Viral Control following Treated Acute HIV Infection

Daniel E Kaufmann, Mathias Lichterfeld, Marcus Altfeld, Marylyn M Addo, Mary N Johnston, Paul K Lee, Bradford S Wagner, Elizabeth T Kalife, Daryld Strick, Eric S Rosenberg, Bruce D Walker

Related Articles

An Inflammatory Cascade Leading to Hyperresistinemia in Humans

Michael Lehrke, Muredach P Reilly, Segan C Millington, Nayyar Iqbal, Daniel J Rader, Mitchell A Lazar

Related Articles