It. Is. Alive!

Literally.

Meagan Moore's art is filled with bacteria. Living, breathing bacteria.

"I draw it by hand or draw it on the computer, then paint it with bacteria in the petri dish," Moore said of her work in the group show "Metis-Muses: Women of Art Through Science,” running through Jan. 21 at The Healthcare Gallery & Wellness Spa.

Sometimes she has to replace the microscopic organisms or they will fade, and Moore wants to show a clear representation of bees, marine life and a woman's internal organs.

Painting with bacteria sounds a little odd, but it isn't revolutionary. 

Moore's research revealed that Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, also dabbled in bacteria art.

"He would actually do some art on petri dishes," Moore said. "I was doing bacteria art on the side, and I was also doing studio art, a combination of ceramics, printmaking and graphic design. It kind of felt natural to me to start using the bacteria, and I thought, 'This could be fun.' "

And though Moore hasn't yet discovered a life-saving medicine, her melding of art and science has helped guide her research as she pursues her degree in biological engineering at LSU.

"I've always been an artist and a scientist, even when I was just using art to explain science and science to explain art to other people or just to make it make sense to me," Moore said. "I would write poetry about the scientific concepts or make a little art piece to explain how an enzyme was going through certain pathways. It's definitely a mechanism of how I understand one with the other."

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Now her two worlds can be observed in this all-female group show, which also features work by Taryn Moller, Chicory Miles, Amanda Morris and Mary Ratcliff. The exhibit was put together by the gallery's curator, Rodneyna Hart, who also is division director of the Capitol Park Museum. 

"Rodneyna and I became friends when I was in a small, college art gallery show," Moore said. "She was the judge, and a little while ago, she said, 'I want to put you in a gallery.' She said it was going to be her last show at the Healthcare Gallery, and it was going to be art based around science."

At the center of Moore's show is her design of “Marie,” a 3D-printed, 5-foot-1-inch purple model used for cancer radiation therapy research.

The life-size “Marie” is accompanied by a “Cancer Mandala,” featuring a smaller model of “Marie” in front of a mandala, a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. “Cancer Mandala” combines data Moore collected from the various particle accelerators used in her research with histological image samples of different types of cancer.

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“Mandalas are made by monks to guide practitioners to enlightenment and are often painted, woven, made of sand and sometimes 3D,” Moore said. “The destruction of the sand mandala is a highly ceremonial process, where the piece is parted out and released back into nature. Similarly, certain cancer treatments literally and metaphorically take a person apart or remove the cellular issues manifesting within the physical form.”

Moore's “Apoptosis” piece analyzes cell death. The central focus is an apoptosome, a large protein structure formed in the process of cell death. The circular facets of this mandala are composed of the genetic code of the apoptosome.

Moore credits Baton Rouge Community College microbiology Professor Mary Miller, St. Joseph's Academy's STEM Director Claire Luikart and local businesswoman Cathlin Disotell with helping her on these pieces.

In between these pieces, bacteria depicts the systems within a woman's body in Moore's "Vituvian Woman;" different species of bees in "The Most Important Species on Earth" and marine life to emphasize the importance of the ocean in "Thalassoplasso."

And the bacteria thrives, breathing life into the science of Moore's art. 

The gallery, located at 3488 Brentwood Drive, is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com