An Artist Is Growing a Real Human Hand

3D scaffolds, seeded with stem cells, become art in Amy Karle's 'Regenerative Reliquary.'
June 14, 2016, 9:45pm
Regenerative Reliquary GIF courtesy of the artist, taken by Autodesk’s Charlie Nordstrom

3D-printed scaffolds, seeded with stem cells, are growing into bones in the latest from new media artist Amy Karle. In collaboration with Autodesk at the Pier 9 Residency program in San Francisco, Karle created “Regenerative Reliquary” to ask questions about the possibility of changing the structure of our bodies and of building with cells and bone.

During her time at the Residency program, Karle, who regularly explores human biology through technology and art, found inspiration in the work of her fellow residents. She lists the ephemerality of Michael Koehle's work, Kate Hartman and Hannah Perner-Wilson's experiments with interaction and the body, Mary Franck's integration of fleeting imagery with fixed sculptural form, Charlie Katrycz's semi-controlled surprises and fractal mimicry, Jimmy Chion's perception studies, and the work of French tattoo artists Pierre Emm and Johan Da Silveira as the projects that have influenced her the most.


Karle, who has previously hooked her body up to a Sandin Image Processor to create a visual and sonic representation of her body’s biofeedback, talked to The Creators Project about open source projects, the artist who inspire her, and Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

Amy Karle with “Regenerative Reliquary.” Image courtesy of the artist, taken by Autodesk’s Charlie Nordstrom

The Creators Project: You leave so much of your pieces up to other forces. Do you ever feel like the ideas that you start a project with are drastically different by the end of the piece?

Amy Karle: It’s important for me to setup my work in a way that yields surprises determined by other, often unknown forces. I allow for the unexpected in my art because this is what it is to be alive; there are things that we plan for and then so much happens that we don’t plan—how we react defines our personalities.

Each piece generally brings up more questions than answers. This format keeps me pushing forward and continuing to try to find answers to these questions through new pieces.

What have you learned through studying the body and mind that has had a significant impact on your life? Is there anything you wish healthcare professionals better understood about human biology?

The most significant impact on my life from studying and making work with the body and mind is the understanding that things that we think are fixed or concrete are not. My work has shown me that there are always other options, which led to an intrinsic understanding that we can remake ourselves into who we want to become.


What I wish the bio-medical field, healthcare professionals—and all of us—better understood about human biology are answers to big, overarching questions, many of which are philosophical in nature… Realizing that we don’t yet know all of the answers keeps us humble and open, and drives us to research and develop better solutions. The most enlightening and supportive healthcare professionals I know embody this spirit and offer hope and encouragement, as there are still so many mysteries of life and unexplainable things that happen in the body.

Image courtesy of the artist, taken by Autodesk’s Charlie Nordstrom

You posted open source instructions explaining how you created 3D-printed lattices for cell culture online. What open source projects have you been inspired by, and do you know of any projects you've inspired?

Open source projects that I’ve been inspired by are “A Neural Algorithm for Artistic Style," and "Deep Dream." My programmer Josh Whitehouse and I have been working on a few projects with this. We are in essence attempting to recreate the way my brain approaches and thinks about art and design, so we can create and train this neural net to imagine sculptures and garments like I do.

One project my work is said to have inspired is the meat dress Lady Gaga wore in 2010 and 2012, which was similar to the meat corsets and meat dresses that I made in 2005 and 2009. I made these out of inconsumable meat for an American Cancer Society Benefit.


Watch Amy Karle bring bones to life in Autodesk's documentary featurette below:

Amy Karle: Bringing Bones to Life from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

You can learn more about Amy Karle’s work here. To see more about the Pier 9 residency program with Autodesk, visit their website.


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