Cancer Cells Inspire Artist

 

Helen Otterson, North Dakota State University, spends her spare time creating sculptures inspired by cell and plant life. Her past experiences and interest in biology have helped her create numerous sculptures which can be seen third floor McCarthy Hall until October 2.

Otterson’s father developed cancer when she was a child, and that sparked her interest in cell life, specifically cancer cells. Otterson studied at the University of Miami where she began working with ceramics, glass and clay. She later added bronze to her sculptures as a support for heavier glass pieces. During her college career she focused on womanhood, femininity and loss of identity before going back to her interest in biology and applying that to her art. Otterson focused on diseased cells and the way they affected the body.

“Disease is essentially cells that have gone wrong and continue to multiply,” said Otterson.

After multiple residencies through various art centers, Otterson began working in south Florida. She was drawn to the succulents in Florida and began to incorporate botanical imagery into her sculptures. She focused on the similarities between the harsh environments endured by succulents and caused by diseased cells.

“Life is composed of the same basic elements, the same goals, the pursuit of survival,” said Otterson. This is what inspired her to combine cells and botanical imagery into her sculptures.

Otterson has two sculptures in shows taking place in Kansas City, Missouri on March 16-19 during NCECA, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. You can also view many of her sculptures on the third floor of McCarthy hall until Oct. 2.