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.

Interdisciplinary Practices in Bio Art

May 16 - Jun 17 2022
19 sessions
9:30 AM-2:00 PM | 19 sessions
If you would like more information about this or any other program offerings, please contact the Artist Residency Programs Coordinator at:
Suzanne Anker, Chair, BFA Fine Arts Department, School of Visual Arts; fine artist; theorist
Tarah Rhoda, Bio Lab manager, School of Visual Arts
May 16 - June 17
From anatomical studies to landscape painting to the biomorphism of surrealism, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists. More recently, bio art has become a term referring to intersecting domains of the biological sciences and their incorporation into the plastic arts. Of particular importance in bio art is to summon awareness of the ways in which biomedical sciences alter social, ethical and cultural values in society.
Coming to the fore in the early 1990s, bio art is neither media specific nor locally bounded. It is an international movement with several subgenres within this overarching term: 1) Artists who employ the iconography of the 20th- and 21st-century sciences, including molecular and cellular genetics, transgenically altered living matter, reproductive technologies and neurosciences. All traditional media, including painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing are employed to convey novel ways of representing life forms. 2) Artists who utilize computer software, systems theory and simulations to investigate aspects of the biological sciences such as evolution, artificial life and robotics through digital sculpture and new media installations. 3) Artists employing biological matter itself as their medium, including processes such as tissue engineering, plant breeding, transgenics and ecological reclamation.
This interdisciplinary residency will take place in the new Bio Art Laboratory located in the heart of New York City's Chelsea gallery district. Participants will have access to BFA Fine Arts Department facilities. Each participant will be assigned an individual workstation. In addition, the Bio Art Laboratory houses microscopes for photo and video, skeleton collections, specimen collections, slide collections, a herbarium and an aquarium as well as a library.
Demonstrations include microscopy, plant tissue engineering, molecular cuisine and the production of micro ecosystems. Field trips and visiting speakers will include artists, scientists and museum professionals. Participants may work in any media including the performing arts.
Faculty and guest lecturers have included Suzanne Anker, Mark Bridgen, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Joseph DeGiorgis, Kathy High, Ellen Jorgensen, Oliver Medvedik, James Walsh and Jennifer Willet.
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.
  • 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).

    SVACE students must provide ID, proof of vaccination, and a student schedule to gain access to the building. Please ensure adequate time to access SPLAN before the scheduled start time of the class.

    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.

    At this time, masks will be required on campus.

    Failure to adhere to these policies is not grounds for a refund.

    Visit SVA’s reopening page for the latest information regarding COVID-19 related policies and procedures:
  • 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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