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Mitochondrial Madonnas

A painter reinvents the Madonna and child genre using imagery from genetics

Arthur Warwick
It's been a long time since the artist Chris Twomey studied any science in an academic setting. She doesn't have a PhD, and she wasn't even a science major in college. But, as a keen amateur, she has in recent years become obsessed with the role DNA plays in our make-up.That obsession is at the root of her latest project, the Madonna Series, currently part of an art exhibit at the New York Hall of Science and on view as a solo show at the Tribes Gallery in Manhattan throughout November.The images in the mixed-media paintings, which use digital photographs of Twomey and various friends with their babies, echo the Madonna and Child pose familiar from countless Renaissance pictures. Twomey's twist on the iconic subject was to paint into the background an imaginary phylogenetic map showing the child's haplogroup as traced by mutations in the mother's mitochondrial DNA."In each...

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