Melanin Images Via Genetically Modified E. coli

Lucy Kim is a visual artist and educator working in painting, sculpture, and biological media to explore the many naturalizing mechanisms that structure day-to-day visual experiences.

Artist Bio

By developing a unique process for creating screen prints from melanin produced by genetically modified E. coli, Lucy Kim explores human pigmentation and the disingenuous use of vision to justify racial categories and inequities. In the lab, she began screen-printing E. coli onto paper and placing them in an incubator. The image is formed as the living cells produce melanin. She considers, materially and conceptually, what might happen when one translates “tonal value” in black and white photography through one of the main pigments behind human skin, hair, and eye color. As one of the visual identifiers of race and identity, melanin’s presence shifts how an image is read and experienced, complicating visual habits embedded in existing socio-cultural systems.

Bio Art, Photography
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Creative Capital Carnival 2022

A smiling asian woman with clear-rimmed glasses, shoulder-length brown hair, and wearing a black and gray sweatshirt, looks to her right in front of a wooden fence.

Lucy Kim

Cambridge, MA

​​Lucy Kim is a visual artist and educator exploring the many naturalizing mechanisms that structure day-to-day visual experiences. Her practice is aesthetically and materially wide-ranging, where her focus is on developing forms that are visceral, tactile, and less vision-centric. Using a broad range of materials such as oil paint, silicone rubbers, resins, and live bacteria cells, she works as a way to understand and challenge photographic authority, and the many socio-cultural systems at work to produce visibility. Recent exhibitions were held at the ICA Boston; Institute of Fine Arts-NYU, New York; and Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore, Saratoga Springs. Kim is a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the ICA Foster Prize, Artadia Award, Mass Cultural Council Grant, and she has been a resident artist at the Broad Institute, MacDowell, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Hermitage Artist Retreat, and Surf Point Foundation. Reviews and features on her work have been published in The New Yorker, Juxtapoz, Bomb Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Brooklyn Rail, Art Papers, ARTNews, and Artforum, and her work is in the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Kadist Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the New York Public Library. Kim is Associate Professor of Art at Boston University.