John Van Houten

Fine Artist, Instructor, Illustrator

Bio Art

This untitled self-portrait aims to push the boundaries of portraiture and legacy. As there are trillions of microorganisms in the human body, many of which live rich and rewarding life cycles after the human dies, the definition of self becomes unclear. Is the bacteria in my body at all part of me, just part of me, or is it “me”? Additionally, as the total amount of energy in a closed system cannot be created nor destroyed, everything is conceivably made from stardust. This self-portrait address the micro vs the macro. Representational symbols of stars juxtapose against the microorganisms suspended in layers of resin.

This art combines the old world art of portraiture with the new world of bio art. Layers of resin are suspended over an acrylic and pastel painting, on which there is another layer of acrylic paint (stars). There are layers of resin above that layer, upon which contains a layer of agar and bacteria that has been swabbed and incubated from my own face. That was then sealed with more layers of resin. Now the portrait contains a representation of myself, but arguably it also contains “me”. Beyond just being physical art, this self-portrait is also a time-based work. Over time the resin will change and the bacteria may try to escape from the work. Will part of me continue to live on in this work after my own death? What is a legacy, and how does this work fit into that concept?

© 2024 John Van Houten