For my STEAM project in this Human Anatomy and Physiology class, I’ve decided to tackle the objective, taken from the list of unit objectives provided, reading, “describe the stages of mitosis.” The topic, or question, that I will be covering as an expansion from the aforementioned course objective that I’ve chosen is, “what changes in the cell cycle cause cells to become cancerous?” The medium that I’ve chosen to use to creatively portray what I’ve learned about my STEAM project’s topic through research is acrylic painting on a 36 in. x 36 in. canvas. The acrylic painting itself has been carried out in an abstract fashion. More specifically, the painting is abstract in that it is a non-literal representation of my topic that focuses on the formal elements of texture, color, negative space, positive space, composition, and shape in order to convey a visual message to the viewer.

Within the picture plane exists a space dominated by matte black paint which has been applied and treated in a way that has left a raised texture throughout the canvas. This textural, matte black space (which clumps together to create more hefty and mountainous areas of raised paint intermittently throughout the painting) is visually broken up via the incorporation of color fields that vary in the strength and brightness of hue. There is also glossy black paint intermittently dispersed throughout the matte black paint texture. Variation of the visual space has also been achieved in this piece with the application of dots composed of paint that is unmixed and therefore true to its original color. These dots vary throughout the piece in hue as well as in degrees of concentration per relative area in order to create clustering and dispersing visual illusions. The areas of color are void of texture. When viewing the predominantly black painting, areas of yellow, white, red, orange, green, and blue form an incomplete square outline, especially on the right side of the piece, within the square confines of the canvas. All of the visual elements that I’ve described in my STEAM project’s painting correspond to an aspect of what I’ve learned about the changes that occur in the cell cycle to cause cells to become cancerous, of which I will elaborate on further after relaying what I’ve learned from researching scholarly articles covering this topic.

The cell cycle itself consists of a number of phases that distinguish what aspect of the cell is changing in the process of mitotically reproducing. These phases: G1, the growth of the cell; S, continued cell growth and DNA replication; G2, continued cell growth and final preparations for cell division; Prophase, mitotic spindle formation and separation; Metaphase, the alignment of chromosomes and the mitotic spindle; Anaphase, replicated DNA is split and pulled towards the two poles of the cell via the mitotic spindle; Telophase, mitotic spindle disperses and chromosomes have reached their destination and begin to form separate nuclei; Cytokinesis, the physical splitting of the cell into two new cells; and G0, exiting the cell cycle. These phases are heavily regulated. This regulation of the cell cycle occurs via genetic information as well as specific proteins like cyclin-dependent kinases (which are integral to moving the cell out of the cell cycle and into an inactive state, or cell death, if genetic material is damaged in the process of mitosis) is integral mainly to ensure that cell defects that can alter the new cells in harmful ways to the human body, specifically damage to DNA, are not exponentially reproduced (Williams et al 2011). What we know of as cancer is the uncontrolled mitotic reproduction of cells with damaged DNA that is possible only because the damaged DNA is the genetic information that directly influences one or more of the proteins, like cyclin-dependent kinases, that are in charge of telling cells to exit the cell cycle should they have damaged DNA (Mattthews et al 2021). With the proteins responsible for telling cells to exit the cell cycle should DNA be damaged in potentially harmful ways in the process of mitosis’ DNA replication be unable to perform their function, the now cancerous cells continue to reproduce as a result of their inability to exit the cell cycle, which in turn produces cancerous cell growths in the human body with varying degrees of lethality depending on which cells have turned cancerous as well as the location of the cancerous cells (Malumbres et al 2009).

The dominance of raised, textural, matte black paint in varying degrees of height and mass in my painting are representative of cancerous cells that form clusters of paint, representative of tumors, as a result of their damaged genetic information in charge of regulating the proteins that regulate their ability to exit the cell cycle and stop reproducing or reach cell death. The inclusion of glossy black paint over the matte black paint in some areas represents the variety of proteins that could be influenced by damaged genetic information which can lead to different alterations in the mitotic reproduction of one cancerous cell that differs from one of another type. The color and colored dots, both of which exist in flat areas of the canvas with no raised, textural paint to indicate a normal rate of cell growth and mitotic regulation, are representative of life and healthy cells. Lastly, the color and colored dots forming an incomplete square outline in the pictorial space reflect the altered mitotic cell cycle in cancerous cells, and the damaged genetic material that is supposed to allow proteins to tell the cell to exit the cell cycle or commit cell death at the appearance of damaged DNA.

References:

Malumbres, M., & Barbacid, M. (2009, March). Cell cycle, cdks and cancer: A changing paradigm. Nature News. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/articles/nrc2602.

Matthews, H. K., Bertoli, C., & de Bruin, R. A. M. (2021, September 10). Cell cycle control in cancer. Nature News. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41580-021-00404-3. 

Williams, G. H., & Stoeber, K. (2011, October 28). The cell cycle and cancer. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/path.3022. 

One Comment

  1. Kyle Augustine has chosen to depict the change in the process of mitosis caused by external damage known as cancer. Kyle has done this by creating a large abstract painting that uses colour, texture, space, composition, and shape in an inharmonious balance to express the irregularity of cancerous growth. While it is a somewhat unorthodox aid for the explanation of such a complex process as cellular reproduction, it fills the role well. The predominant use of the colour black helps cement the idea of an unnatural force, while the erratic splotches of colouration help to indicate a sense of the organic. What few colours that are present are spread throughout, in a loose square-like shape, this eludes to the cycle of mitosis. There is no clear end or beginning to the shape just as mitosis is always occurring. Each of the phases within the cycle also seems to be represented by a different colour, with five distinct colours (white, yellow, red, green, and orange) for the five phases (prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase). Each of these phases also has no clear end or beginning, instead, bleeding into the phases next to it. Lastly, the command of texture shown within the piece helps to give the abstract a sense of reality. Grounding it in the present by projecting the message of the piece beyond the confines of the two-dimensional world. Additionally, the lack of texture throughout the entire piece, but instead its intentional clustering helps to show how cancerous growths are formed in clusters. In summary, Kyle Augustine has managed to bring together several artistic properties to effectively convey the reality of cancer and its effect on mitosis.

    Giovanni Marchel

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