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Art and science intertwine in paintings

Jay Dunlap, left, chair of genetics, was among those on hand to thank Mary and Harry Morse (right) for their gift of two paintings.
Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox

There was much to celebrate on September 8 for Harry Morse, M.D., a 1944 Dartmouth College graduate, and his wife, Mary. Not only was it the week of their 53rd wedding anniversary, but they were the guests of honor at a luncheon given by Dean John Baldwin, M.D., as they presented to DMS two oil paintings by their daughter, Mary Jane "M.J." Morse.

M.J. Morse is an artist whose abstract works draw their inspiration from the intricacies of the invisible molecular world. Trained as both an artist and a scientist, she holds a Ph.D. in biology from Cornell and is currently on the staff of the Boston Museum of Science. She has brought her artistic skills and scientific knowledge together in a series of oil paintings that she calls "Molecular Intimacies." "I am trying to express some of the beauty and complexity of the molecular environment from a very personal point of view," says M.J. Morse. "[It's] a delight when someone else connects with that vision."

The two works donated to DMS, both oils on gessoed paper, are from this series. "Floating Map (template)" combines brilliant squares of purple, orange, red, and yellow against a rich purple background. To the eye of DMS geneticist Jennifer Loros, Ph.D., the profusion of shapes and colors suggests a large multiple protein complex, such as the enzyme complex responsible for transcription. This process—in which RNA is copied from a DNA template—is vividly represented in the second painting, titled "Transcription on lavender ground." In it, blue and green strands, representing the double helix of DNA, give way to a brilliant strand of orange, representing the RNA molecule, all against a soft lavender background.

Following the luncheon, Loros and Jay Dunlap, M.D., chair of genetics, gave the Morses a tour of the nearly 10,000 square feet of space in Remsen newly renovated for the genetics department, where their daughter's artwork now hangs. —-S.F.

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