Hunter Cole

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Hunter Cole is an artist and geneticist. She reinterprets science as art through the creation of living artworks, abstractions, digital art and installations confronting issues related to biotechnology in our culture.

Early life and education[edit]

Hunter Cole was known as Hunter O'Reilly until January 2009. She graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco, California in 1989.[1] She has a bachelor's degree from the University of California-Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[2]


Living Drawings exhibitions[edit]

Recently she has created a series of Living Drawings with bioluminescent bacteria. These Living Drawings depict the cycle of life and death calling attention to our own mortality. Cole creates controlled line drawings using bioluminescent bacteria. The bacteria then grow in the host environment. Bacteria become collaborators in the art as it grows and dies. First appearing with bright light, bacteria in the drawing are photographed as it uses up available nutrients, gradually dying-off over a two-week period. The cover of the April 2004 issue of Nature Genetics featured one of these Living Drawings.[3][4] Cole’s Living Drawings were a part of a group exhibition, It’s Alive! A Laboratory of BioTech Art, at Monserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts in 2007.[5][6][7][8] Cole’s Living Drawings have had solo shows at the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago, Illinois in 2006[9] and the Honors College at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan in 2005.


Cole is often listed with other artists who create what is often referred to as bioart.[10][11] Cole has taught both biology and art at Loyola University Chicago, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin–Parkside. She joined the faculty in the Biology Department at Loyola University Chicago in the Fall 2004.[12] Notedly, in 2001, Cole created a course, Biology through Art, first offered at University of Wisconsin–Parkside, where students have opportunities to create innovative artworks in a biology laboratory.[13] Currently she teaches this course at Loyola University Chicago.[14] Biology through Art helps students from all disciplines to think outside the box. This course focuses on several areas in the biological sciences from molecular biology to human anatomy. Students view microorganisms; use DNA as an artistic medium, create music based on DNA sequence, and see anatomy as art. Contemporary artists that use biological concepts and biological materials in their art are discussed.

Beginning Fall 2008 at Loyola University Chicago, Cole taught a new course she created titled, BioArt: Exploring Living Organisms through Art. The course focuses on art that incorporates living organisms. The course will also look at art that incorporates actual blood as a medium in the art. With her extensive laboratory experience, Cole brings a unique and challenging perspective to the world of biotechnology via art.

Grants and commissions[edit]

Cole has received grants from the Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program, the Puffin Foundation and the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program to create art for exhibitions reinterpreting science as art looking at positive aspects of biotechnology. In 2006 the National Institutes of Health commissioned her to create paintings based on cancer genomics and cancer proteomics.

Genetic Revelations and Radioactive Biohazard exhibitions[edit]

Cole's exhibition Genetic Revelations was presented at the University of Alabama School of Public Health in Birmingham, Alabama from January to April 2004.[15] Radioactive Biohazard showed the Porter Butts Gallery at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in January/February 2003, [12] at the Warren Robbins Gallery at the University of Michigan in September 2002,[16][17][18] and at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (Milwaukee) in 2001.[19] In the Radioactive Biohazard exhibit, Cole confronts issues related to human cloning, stem cell research, and the human genome project, among others. Cole’s art has been shown internationally including New York, San Francisco, England, Italy, Japan and the Czech Republic.

Journal covers[edit]

Cole’s art also has been featured on the covers of several scientific journals including Nature Biotechnology (July 2005),[20] Nature Genetics (April 2004),[3][4] Genetics in Medicine (September/October 2002; November/December 1999[21]), Nature Reviews Genetics (September 2001;[22][23] August 2001;[24][25] January 2001[26][27]), Trends in Ecology and Evolution (June 2001),[28] Developmental Dynamics (September 2000),[29] The EMBO Journal (December 15, 1999;[30][31] November 2, 1998;[32][33] (August 3, 1998)[34][35] and Neural Notes (Winter 1999).[36]


Cole co-authored a paper on “Art and Genetics” with Joe Davis, Dana Boyd and Marek Wieczorek published in the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (ELS).[37] Cole has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Publications that have discussed Cole's work in art and science, among others, include Science,[38] The Scientist,[5][39][40] the Chicago Tribune,[9] Detroit Free Press,[16][41] Muy Interesante[42] in Spain, Le Monde[43] in France and Beaux Arts magazine[44] in France. Additionally, Cole has presented seminars on bioart at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the Dialogue Between Science and Art Workshop in Hluboka, Czech Republic.


  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, September 18, 2008.
  • Panel Discussion, Montserrat College of Art, Montserrat Gallery, Beverly, MA, March 16, 2007.
  • Artreach Lecture Series, Montserrat College of Art, Montserrat Gallery, Beverly, MA, March 16, 2007.
  • Aglow in the Dark: Art/Science and Bioluminescene, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, January 25, 2007.
  • Tri-Beta, Biological Honor Society Lambda Omega Chapter, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, January 22, 2007.
  • Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, IL, April 2, 2006.
  • Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium Keynote Address, Chicago, IL, April 1, 2006.
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL, March 7, 2006.
  • Dialogue Between Science and Art Workshop, Hluboka, Czech Republic, July 2005.
  • Honors College at Oakland University, Rochester, MI, March 21, 2005.
  • University of Alabama School of Public Health, Birmingham, AL, February 20, 2004.
  • Dialogue Between Science and Art Workshop, Hluboka, Czech Republic, July 16, 2003.
  • University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, January 31, 2003.
  • University of Michigan Genetics Department, Ann Arbor, MI, September 23, 2002.
  • University of Michigan School of Art and Design, Ann Arbor, MI, September 20, 2002.
  • Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, WI, April 24, 2002.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, March 13, 2002.
  • University of Wisconsin–Parkside, Kenosha, WI, February 15, 2002.
  • Walker's Point Center for the Arts, Milwaukee, WI, May 5, 2001.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ludwig, Stephanie. “Hunter O’Reilly: Finds the Art in Pathology.” Breakthroughs Magazine: College of Natural Resources (University of California – Berkeley) Fall 2007.
  3. ^ a b Nature Genetics 36.4 (April 2004): cover.
  4. ^ a b Nature Genetics 36.4 (April 2004): cover.
  5. ^ a b Weir, Kirsten. “Biotechnology on display: A gallery-turned-laboratory fuses art and science.” 9 March 2007.
  6. ^ Schoonmaker, Rebecca. “Montserrat comes ‘Alive’ with a new show melding science and art.” The Eagle-Tribune 16 February 2007.
  7. ^ Cook, Greg. “Culture War Games.” The Phoenix (Boston, MA) 27 March 2007.
  8. ^ “It's Alive, and It's Kind of Disturbing.” 20 February 2007.
  9. ^ a b Artner, Alan G. “Art Reviews: Drawings Seduce with Illusion of Spontaneity.” Chicago Tribune 7 April 2006.
  10. ^ Philipkoski, Kristen. “Behold: ‘Ebola Is Beautiful.” 19 August 2002.
  11. ^ Herrera, Stephan. “Eduardo Kac.” Nature Biotechnology 23.11 (November 2005): 1331.
  12. ^ Inside Loyola (News for Faculty and Staff of Loyola University Chicago) June/July 2005.
  13. ^ Cole, Kevin. "Art and Science 101, Deconstructing Hunter: Will the Real Bionic Woman Please Stand Up?" Dialogue: the art, architecture, and design journal of the Heartland July/August 2003.
  14. ^ Loyola University Chicago – Course Offerings
  15. ^ Stannard, Jennifer. "O'Reilly Art Exhibit Fuses Art and Science." Kaleidoscope 17 February 2004.
  16. ^ a b Provenzano, Frank. "DNArtist: The lab inspires geneticist's artwork, on exhibit at U-M." Detroit Free Press 4 September 2002.
  17. ^ Cantu, John Carlos. "Joining art, science: Geneticist's work, on display at Robbins Gallery, explores ethics." Ann Arbor News 14 September 2002.
  18. ^ Newvine, Colleen. “Geneticist brings art exhibit about ethical questions of science to U-M.” The University Record (University of Michigan) 3 September 2002.
  19. ^ "Radioactive Biohazard: Dr. Hunter O'Reilly, Ph.D. and Electric Eye Neon." Arts News 20 April 2001.
  20. ^ Nature Biotechnology 23.7 (July 2005): cover.
  21. ^ Genetics in Medicine 1.7 (November/December 1999): cover.
  22. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.9 (September 2001): cover.
  23. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.9 (September 2001): cover.
  24. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.8 (August 2001): cover.
  25. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.8 (August 2001): cover.
  26. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.1 (January 2001): cover.
  27. ^ Nature Reviews Genetics 2.1 (January 2001): cover.
  28. ^ Developmental Dynamics 219.1 (September 2000): cover.
  29. ^ The EMBO Journal 18.24 (December 15, 1999: cover.
  30. ^ The EMBO Journal 18.24 (December 15, 1999): cover.
  31. ^ The EMBO Journal 17.21 (November 2, 1998): cover.
  32. ^ The EMBO Journal 17.21 (November 2, 1998): cover.
  33. ^ The EMBO Journal 17.15 (August 3, 1998): cover.
  34. ^ The EMBO Journal 17.15 (August 3, 1998): cover.
  35. ^ Neural Notes 4.3 (Winter 1999): cover.
  36. ^ Joe Davis, Dana Boyd, Hunter O’Reilly and Marek Wieczorek. “Art and Genetics.” Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (ELS) ed. 2006.
  37. ^ Holden, Constance. "Yes, This Is Art." Science 26 July 2002.
  38. ^ Cohen, Hal. "Bioscience Moves into Galleries as Bioart." The Scientist 11 November 2002.
  39. ^ Cohen, Hal. "Life posing as art." The Scientist 30 September 2002.
  40. ^ Provenzano, Frank. "Biotechnology and ethics." Detroit Free Press 4 September 2002.
  41. ^ Sacristán, Alejandro. "Genes con arte." Muy Interesante March 2003. (Spain)
  42. ^ "Désirs de Clonage." Le Monde 28 December 2002. (France)
  43. ^ Lavrador, Judicaël. "Bio Art: La Gènes Génération." Beaux Arts magazine November 2002. (France)

External links[edit]