Painting with blood is one thing, but stem cells? Hematopoietic stem cells obtained from the cord blood of a newborn to be exact. These are the blood cells that give rise to all the other blood cells in the body. Prior to the birth of our son, my wife and I had discussed the options of collecting cord blood at the time of delivery. Our doctor, who was already familiar with my artwork, was very understanding of the irregular request and made a note in the birth plan for a cold blood collection.
After our son was born, the doctor held him level with the umbilical cord until the pulse in the cord slowed and then clamped the umbilical before extracting approximately 30 ccs of cord blood. To some it may seem odd to make use of cord blood in such a way. To me though, it's not anymore strange than the ritual of planting a tree with the placenta from a birth. When neither cord blood nor placenta is requested for use the standard procedure of the hospital is to simply dispose of these afterbirth components.
At first I had envision a five painting body of work revolving around aspects of human stem cells and their recently discovered attributes. However, after completing the first painting The Source, it became clear that there wasn't going to be enough of the cord blood to do five paintings. The centralized sphere, depicting a womb with a sleeping fetus inside of it, used roughly two of the three vials. This rapidly diminishing supply caused me to rethink the concept for the next couple paintings.
The second painting Mother of gold with stem child, depicts a balance of worth and raises the question of value between two precious materials. The predominate figure of the golden mother, composed of pure gold dust and gold gesso, takes up most of the composition, Yet, the tiny fetus of Hematopoietic Stem Cells is the greater value as it rests housed in an encasement of gold.
The third painting had reached the last drops of the cord blood. This was just enough to paint the little figure of the infant child. For the father in the composition I used my own blood and my wife contributed hers for the mother in the piece. Where the previous painting with gold depicted the monetary value of this material; this latter painting represents the family values held in a genetic blood line.
Although the idea of painting with Stem Cells was very exciting at first, it turned out to be more frustrating than I had thought it would be. The tiny amount we were able to obtain was barely enough for a 24"x 24" painting and some little additions into the other two. Plus even though it was a type of blood it didn't behave the same way as the blood I was used to working with. Perhaps with a larger supply and enough time I could get this material down as well. But the difficulty in obtaining such a rare material is more than I prefer to work with. All in all it was fun to try out this small body of work, but I think I'll stick with my previous materials.