Klari Reis and the Art of Science


Artist Klari Reis creates art in Petri dishes.  Like the cultures you would expect to find there, the daubs of colour bloom, bleeding paint seems frozen in time, whisps and tendrils reach across the glossy surfaces reminding us of past science lessons and images from under the microscope.  The desire to peer closer is inevitable.

This is art and science on two levels.  Not only does the art look like biological forms but the artist Klari Reis experiments with the reactions of acrylics, oils, dyes and epoxy polymer to achieve these mesmerising effects.

In the UK all art teachers talk about turning STEM into STEAM.  STEM subjects in schools are Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. You turn it into STEAM by adding ‘Art’.  What would a curriculum be without art?

I’ve been talking to Klari Reis about her work and she’s provided some great information for us and our students.  She has also kindly contributed images for an official, artist-approved, presentation for art teachers, including a script, to use in the classroom.

60 Piece Petri Dish Installation

I asked Reis what inspired her to make art in petri dishes.

“Twenty years ago I became very ill with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder. Visually, with my paintings, I was trying to work out what was happening in my body and how the different medications I was being prescribed may have been affecting my cells.  I started with paintings on panel and then later moved to the biomedical standard – the petri dish.”

Klari Reis Petri Dish Installation

Creating installations is a large part of Klari Reis’s practice.  The projects consist of hand-painted Petri dishes mounted on the wall at varying distances in groupings.

 ”I make each dish to stand on its own, but they are really designed to have impact in groups. Typically, they are available in groupings of 30, 60 or 150 pieces.”

Clemson University

The petri dish art below called ‘Beloved’ is taken from Klari Reis’s ‘A Daily Dish‘.  ‘A Daily Dish’ is a blog, separate from her website, where she posts a petri dish artwork every day.  I’ve saved it to my favourites as there is something therapeutic about logging on and taking a look.

Reis is based in San Francisco which is close to one of the largest concentrations of life science companies in the world.  Klari takes advantage of this proximity to collaborate with local biomedical companies and thus receive inspiration from the cutting edge of biological techniques and discoveries.

As art teachers we can all imagine our students splodging some paint in a petri dish, however, it’s when you examine the detail in Klari Reis’s work that you start to really appreciate it.

Klari Reis detail

The image below is also from ‘A Daily Dish‘ and although it’s called ‘Earth Friendly’ I thought it might be useful for your students who are creating coronavirus themed artworks.

Earth Friendly by Klari Reis

Reis also works on wood panels.  These also reflect a scientific theme.

'Fig A' by Klari Reis

Another series on a different theme but still reflecting Reis’s distinctive style is ‘Street Anatomy’. This is great to know about if you get a ‘maps’ themed question on an exam paper.

'San Franciso Blue' from the 'Street Anatomy' series by Klari Reis

I was interested to know if Reis had any particular artist influences.

“I love the colorful work of Yayoi Kusama.  I am also influenced by Terry Winters and locally, Squeak Carnwath.”

I wondered if Reis would have any advice for our students who enjoyed her work.

“Keep making and speaking from your heart.  These days, as a creative, the quantity of influences can be incredibly overwhelming.  Pinterest, Instagram and lessons on Skillshare. Regularly creating eventually allows for the development of your own voice, style, and vision.”

Click the image below to go to a free presentation for art teachers to use in the classroom.

Klari Reis Free Presentation

The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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