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The double-helix of life

Ali Hammond was one of five JMU seniors who learned more than photography in their advanced photo class this semester. They also learned about DNA and the ethical implications of genetic advancements.
By Brad Jenkins ('99)

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Ali Hammond's work is part of the "Chromozone" exhibit, on display through Jan. 28 at the Art Council of the Valley, Smith House, 311 S. Main St., Harrisonburg.

Depicting the ultimate building block

What's a sculpture doing in a photo exhibit? Look closer at Ali Hammond's double-helix model in the center of the Smith House exhibit area and you'll see.

Connecting each strand is a photo, a close-up of various parts of the human face. There's a pair of upward-glancing eyes, wrinkles flowing down the face and into gray hair. There's a mouth, a smile apparently beginning to form. There's a chin, a nose and another smile, this one with a toothy grin.

Together, they form Hammond's message that DNA — the building block of life — exhibits itself outwardly in how we look and behave.

"I concentrate on the human figure in all of my work," says Hammond, a senior studio arts major from Charlottesville. "[In this exhibit], I am focusing on the human face because it is the most distinguishing aspect of the human figure. It shows a lot about the genes that make up one's physical appearance, as well as one's personality."

"Chromozone" is on display through Jan. 28 at the Art Council of the Valley. It is located at Smith House, 311 S. Main St., Harrisonburg. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

More about DNA, art and science

Editor's note: In a speech regarding leadership in science, National Science Foundation Director Arden L. Bement Jr. commented, "I am often asked: "What keeps you awake at night?" My answer is: "The nation's continuing ability to compete in the global market." Scientific discovery, so crucial in today's competitive global market, increasingly requires individuals from different disciplines and perspectives to work together. It's the only way to solve the extraordinarily complex scientific challenges of our world. And, it calls for new approaches to education that will inform and inspire the next generation of innovators and explorers.

JMU is responding to the call in a yearlong series of integrated arts and sciences events focusing on the study of the genome. One of the events, a collaborative show by the JMU Fall 2010 Advanced Color Photography Class, features the work of five senior photography concentration students within the School of Art and Art History.