From the Laboratory to the Studio

The SVA Bio Art Laboratory, located in the heart of New York City’s Chelsea gallery district, houses microscopes for photo and video; skeletons; specimen and slide collections; a herbarium; and an aquarium, as well as a library.

From the Laboratory to the Studio: Interdisciplinary Practices in Bio Art

May 22 - Jun 16 2023
Suzanne Anker, Chair, BFA Fine Arts Department, School of Visual Arts; fine artist; theorist
Tarah Rhoda, Bio Lab manager, School of Visual Arts
From anatomical studies to landscape painting to the biomorphism of surrealism, the biological realm has historically provided a significant resource for artists. More recently, bio art has become a term referring to intersecting domains of the biological sciences and their incorporation into the visual arts. Of particular importance in bio art is to summon awareness of the ways in which advancing biotechnologies alter social, ethical and cultural values in society. This interdisciplinary residency will take place in the SVA Bio Art Laboratory located in the heart of New York City's Chelsea gallery district.
The SVA Bio Art Lab is a fusion of a 19th-century cabinet of curiosities with a state-of- the-art biotechnology laboratory, housing specimen collections, aquariums, a variety of microscopes, and an art and science library. In this residency, students will be introduced to the emerging field of biological arts through hands-on laboratory practices and discussions. Demonstrations include microscopic imaging, growing 2D and 3D biomaterials, painting with bacteria, culturing organisms and designing micro-ecosystems, working with bioluminescence and bioplastics, and molecular gastronomy techniques. Discussion topics range from bioethics and genetic manipulation to climate change and sustainability.
Each resident has a private studio space and access to various sculpture and printing facilities in the department. The residency culminates in a public exhibition. Students may work in any media, including the performing arts. The program is led by artist Suzanne Anker, chair of the BFA Fine Arts Department, and Tarah Rhoda, manager of the Bio Art Laboratory. Faculty and former speakers include artists, scientists and museum professionals such as Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Oron Catts, Thyrza Goodeve and François-Joseph Lapointe.
Note: A portfolio is required for review and acceptance to this program. Residents who wish to borrow equipment from the Fine Arts Digital Lab are required to provide proof of insurance with rental endorsement, listing SVA as a co-insured. Participants will be held responsible for payment of any loss, theft or damage incurred to the equipment. SVA provides information on affordable insurance plans. This residency is graded on a pass/fail system. A Pass (P) will be awarded for its successful completion.
  • To gain access to SVA’s facilities, every member of the SVA campus community must be vaccinated, and those who are eligible must be boosted against COVID-19.

    Continuing Education (SVACE) students registered for on-campus course(s) may access academic and administrative buildings using the SPLAN system at the lobby kiosk. It is recommended that SVACE students complete their course registration at least 72 hours in advance of the start date of their course(s).

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    Forms for requesting a medical exemption from SVA’s vaccination policy may be found here. All students who receive an exemption must comply with regular testing and other policies, which may lengthen the time the time it takes to get approved for entry to SVA's buildings.

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  • Facility and Equipment Details


A portrait of a woman standing in front of a black background with dark hair and blue eyes.
Suzanne Anker

Suzanne Anker is a Bio Art pioneer, visual artist, and theorist working at the intersection of art and the biological sciences. Her practice investigates the ways in which nature is being altered in the 21st century. Concerned with genetics, climate change, species extinction, and toxic degradation, she calls attention to the beauty of life and the “necessity for enlightened thinking about nature’s ‘tangled bank’." Chairing SVA’s Fine Arts Department in NYC since 2005, Ms. Anker continues to interweave traditional and experimental media in her department’s new digital initiative and the SVA Bio Art Laboratory.

Suzanne Anker’s work has been shown at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Daejeon Biennale, Korea; Chronus Art Center, Shanghai, China; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany; Today Art Museum, Beijing, China; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; P.S.1 Museum, New York, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité, Berlin, Germany; the Center for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, Germany; the Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey; the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; and the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Her books include The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age, co-authored with the late sociologist Dorothy Nelkin, published in 2004 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Visual Culture and Bioscience, co-published by University of Maryland and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

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A portrait of a woman with auburn hair standing in front of plants.
Tara Rhoda

Tarah Rhoda is an artist and educator based in NYC, where she runs the School of Visual Art’s BioArt Lab, a BSL-1 laboratory that provides artists with the tools of biotechnology and fosters creative applications. Her recent art practice explores the physical principle of wetness as a metaphor for empathy, social permeability, and the challenge of recognizing our fluid selves blurring at the edges. She received her BFA (2010) and MFA (2020) from SVA and also studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Her work has recently been exhibited in New York, Denver, Detroit, Toronto, Mexico City, Lisbon, Berlin, Amsterdam, Eindhoven and featured in National Geographic, the Guardian, CBSNews, and Hyperallergic.

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