Viruses as art
College students taking a class in the department of microbiology and immunology don't usually see their names in lights at a museum. But if they sign up for Robert Siegel's junior-senior "Humans and Viruses" class at Stanford University, they may get to fill a gallery.
Siegel, an associate professor who has taught this class at The Farm for three decades, uses three-dimensional models to aid in the understanding of human viral infections. Students take a particularly kinesthetic approach: They build their own models of rabies, smallpox and other sub-microscopic meanies.
There's something to be said, aesthetically, for viruses, which are typically symmetrical. And Siegel is a pro at finding art in science; he's also a published photographer and poet ("Open the Window and Influenza" is one of his titles).
Now through October, 13 models made by Siegel's students are on display at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center in an exhibition called "Adventures in the Human Virosphere: The Use of Three-Dimensional Models to Understand Human Viral Infections." Works include Carla Sanchez-Palacios' model of rotavirus, constructed from various kinds of pasta; and Sarah Kaewert's take on Norwalk (noro) virus, made of poster board and plastic cups.
A model of papillomavirus bristles with Q-Tips and syringes, but Angela Cesena has also incorporated lively color with yellow and green crepe paper.
The Cantor center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m., off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Admission is free. Go to http://museum.stanford.edu or call 650-723-4177.
The Iraq War Logs and women's choral music: two things that don't usually go together, except if you're working with composer Ted Hearne. The young New Yorker's creations have included a song cycle on Hurricane Katrina and a chamber work about a man being told he is HIV-positive. Hearne doesn't shy away from tough current events.
This month, the Palo Alto-based Peninsula Women's Chorus will premiere a new treble-voice work commissioned from Hearne. "Ripple" incorporates one sentence from the U.S. Army field reports called the Iraq War Logs: "The marine that engaged from Post 7 was unable to determine the occupants of the vehicle due to the reflection of the sun coming off the windshield."
That sentence is heard in full and in parts throughout the choral piece: woven into spiritual and minimalistic sounds, and complex rhythms. In a press release, Hearne said, "'Ripple' seeks to portray the effect of a singular trauma on the memory of someone who was involved."
The piece is a response to chorus director Martin Benvenuto's request, in which he asked Hearne for a challenging piece that reflects modern times.
The chorus will perform "Ripple" at its spring concert at 4 p.m. May 12 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. The program also includes music by Claude Le Jeune, Lojze Lebic and Gwyneth Walker. Tickets are $25 general, $30 "premium" and $10 for students. Go to http://pwchorus.org or call 650-327-3095.
Mother's Day always means something additional at Stanford University: the Stanford Powwow. Each year, the Mother's Day weekend also brings with it traditional dancing, songs, a drum contest, a fun run and a colorful, popular cultural gathering. Many participants also camp out at the event site, the Eucalyptus Grove at Embarcadero Road and El Camino Real.
Festivities begin Friday, May 11, with special performances starting at 5 p.m. The Indian Art Market opens for business, and the dancers make their grand entrances at the 7 p.m. Grand Entry, which also includes an invocation and welcome address. Social dances, intertribal events and a dance competition continue until the 11 p.m. closing song.
On Saturday, May 12, the Fun Run goes from 8 to 11:30 a.m., with the dancers' Grand Entry at 1 p.m. Exhibitions, dance and drum contests and songs follow, with a Stanford Native American alumni gathering at 4:30 p.m. After a dinner break at 5, dances resume from 7 to 11.
On Sunday, May 13, more songs, dances, drumming and contests runs from 11:30 a.m. until the closing songs and contest-winner announcements at 6 p.m. For more information about the weekend, go to http://stanfordpowwow.org .