Institute for Society and Genetics
STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
Exploratorium Museum
Center for PostNatural History
Natalie Settles, artist in a plant lab 


   Amisha Gadani received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon, worked in science education and exhibit development at the Exploratorium Museum in SF, and currently works as artist in resident for this lab and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics.

   Amisha makes kinetic sculptures, drawings, videos, and interactive wearables that address her fascination with the ocean and the unusual adaptations of it's inhabitants. She is keen to get her hands dirty in the research that inspires her and her artwork and thanks the lab for this sweet gig.

1 animal-inspired artist + 1 evolutionary biology lab for 1 year

Bats and Boxfishes

At the lab, I've taken a specific interest in Tina's boxfish research and Sharlene's bat PhD research.  Sharlene gave me her book, "Bats of the World" by R. Nowak which I have really enjoyed reading.  Bats are so cool! Their legs are rotated 180 degrees at the hip, they can't actually jump to take off (like birds) so they roost in high places and simply fall to initiate flight, and -oh yeah- THEY'RE FLYING MAMMALS!  As a species, they have a hugely diverse diet from fruit, nectar, and leaf-juice, to insects, blood, and small birds and mammals.  Since most bats favor only one or two of these diets, many of them have specialized facial and oral structures to best ingest their food.  Looking through the book at the variety of bat shapes and structures is always pleasant and exciting until I flip to some of the frightening bats like the bat whose face looks like the Donnie Darko mask or to the bat with a nose like the head of a hammerhead shark with nostrils replacing the eyeballs at each end!  I would really like to draw a poster of only bat noses.  Since reading the 2009 NYtimes article, "Extravagant Results of Nature's Arms Race" which featured an illustration of animal armaments I have become very interested in visual comparisons of single animal traits.  


Cuttlefish Dress Installed at the Andy Warhol Museum 

After a thrilling few days leading up to the shows opening-- involving several quick adaptations to less that ideal performance conditions -- the performance went well and the installation looks good.  The performance was VERY quick, which is one of the reasons I like the installation because it provides viewers with a freeze-frame of the most interesting part of the performance, the release of the "balloon ink".  


Cuttlefish Defensive Dress 

I've been working on the next and fourth interactive dress in my series of animal-inspired defensive dresses this time inspired by ink-squirting cephalopods!  The dress will be performed in Pittsburgh on Sep 17 at the Warhol Museum and will remain on display until early next year.  

After months of preparation, planning, and steady progress this is my big push week.  I'd say the dress is about 88% complete.  Just waiting on a few parts and need to make a couple more stitches and hems. 

The performance is the most interesting part.  In my series of defensive dresses, though I don't try to appear like the animal whose defense I've chosen I do try to imitate their behavior during the performance after I've released the hidden defense of each dress.  In this case I will release an ink cloud composed of several black and silver custom-shaped helium balloons and then retreat --while running backwards-- into a staged set of crowd members wearing clothing that matches my costume.  Mike Alfaro actually suggested this last bit because it adds a cephalopod-like camouflage defense to my ink-squirting performance, Thanks Mike!



Clades, Cladistics, and Cladograms

Though I had heard the term before joining the lab, I heard it A LOT in my first week here and realized that I should really look it up.  It turns out clades are units in a separate classification system called cladistics which focuses on genetic relationships between species.  Cladistics sounds like it's the modern, objective form of organismal classification slowly aiming to overwrite the older "Phenetic" system which classfied organisms into taxa based on morphological similarity and not much else.   

So a clade is a group consisting of all of the decendents of a common ancestor, and cladograms graphically represent these relationships.  

For more info see:


Hello World

Amisha here, artist in lab-training.

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