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Published on March 22, 2021

Patricia Olynyk

Extension II digital C print on archival paper, 22.25 x 61.25 inches, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist

“My photographs, prints, and video installations investigate science and technology-related themes and the ways in which social systems and institutional structures shape our understanding of science, medicine, and the natural world. Working across disciplines to develop 'third culture' projects, my work often seeks to uncover 'slippages' in the interpretation of natural history and medical collections, by shedding light on gaps and discrepancies found therein. Three distinct themes that drive my work and which evolve through scanning electron microscopy, mining historical archives, and transmedia storytelling include: scale and its affects; self-organizing systems; and the human taxonomy.”

“Some specimens and objects, such as those housed in Vienna’s infamous Narrenturm (asylum) and Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, re-imagine the human by way of technology. Other specimens and objects these museums house reflect the human history of anatomy and medicine. My work seeks to not only extend abstract perspectives about the specimens themselves––what the objects are and who the subjects may have been—but why they ended up where they did. What do these collections teach us about timely and relevant issues today as they relate to transhumanism, identity politics, and the fictitious foundations of human taxonomy itself?” Patricia Olynyk, 2021

Olynyk’s research-based art practice informs her teaching and academic leadership. Prior to joining Washington University in 2007 as Director, Graduate School of Art and Florence and Frank Bush Professor of Art, Olynyk was appointed in the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, where she also directed the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Program and the Roman J. Witt Visiting Faculty Program. In 2005, she became the first non-scientist appointed to the university’s renowned Life Sciences Institute. Olynyk is former Chair of the Leonardo Education and Art Forum, a branch of the International Society for the Arts, Science and technology (Leonardo/ISAST). She co-directs the Leonardo/ISAST NY LASER program in New York, which promotes cross-disciplinary exchange between artists, scientists, humanists, and scholars.