Would we think differently about microbes if we could see them in 3D and could look inside how complex they are? Instead of seeing them as abstract, colored little "bugs" in a textbook would we realise how tough they are and how they can ravage out bodies? That's the mission behind the glass artwork of Luke Jerram.
His collection has been in development since 2004, designed to bring the plight of global diseases to the attention of the world. By rendering the microbes in colorless glass Jerram shows off their pure structures which are eye opening in their complexity. In this way we get to reflect on the disease and react to it in an unbiased way - not affected by color that may be added in a textbook or by artist renderings.
The sculptures are created in consultation with virologists in from the University of Bristol, using photographs and models. Then Jerram and fellow glass blowers Kim George, Brian Jones and Norman Veitch collaborate on the intricate models. Each replica is about 1,000,000 times the size of the actual virus/bacteria.
The glass models of microbes have caught the attention of the scientific community who use them in medical journals such as Lancet, the British Medical Journal, in magazines, and even textbooks. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC have even acquired Jerram’s glass artwork for their permanent collection.
After looking at the colorless and intricate models it's hard not to be struck by their beauty in the glass form - and that begs the question whether we become more fixed on the beauty or the complexity that makes them so dangerous. As with all art it's likely in the eye of the beholder.
Visit Luke Jerram's website to find out which microbes make up the beautiful gallery.