Project: Zika virus vessel

One of my big projects from last winter was a Zika virus vessel. It’s a semi-functional piece – you could use it as a candy dish or some such, but it’s a bit cumbersome for everyday use.

The main structure is two half-spheres (one for the base and one for the lid), on which I sculpted the capsid proteins in my best approximation of the correct symmetry for this virus.

It begins.
Laying out the symmetry for the capsid proteins
Filling in the remaining capsid proteins

I left the capsid coat incomplete, because at the time that I was working on this piece, the Zika outbreak was still very much a developing problem, and I suspect we’ve far from seen the end of this virus’s potential.

For the pedestals, I’ve incorporated three of the Zika virus’ primate hosts (capuchin, marmoset, and of course human), and included infants for the human and marmoset figures to represent the tragic effects of this virus on a developing fetus.

Human pedestal
Marmoset pedestal
Capuchin pedestal

I also incorporated the virus’ vector, mosquitoes in the Aedes genus, to complete the cycle. Both adult and pupa stages are shown to remind us that control for these vectors begins with environmental and cultural conditions.

Aedes mosquito pupa
Aedes mosquito adult
Glaze application

I used a watery blue glaze for the uncoated middle section to evoke the water in which the mosquito hosts lay their eggs, and because it makes the whole thing look a bit like a globe – Zika isn’t just a local problem, and diseases like it have the capacity to cause great harm on a global scale.

Finished piece
Detail of adult mosquito
Detail of mosquito pupa

All told, this beast took about 6 months to complete. While I spent much of that time cursing myself, the clay’s drying speed, and Zika’s complex capsid pattern, I’m pretty pleased with the final outcome.


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