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Archiving Eden

Since 2008 Dornith Doherty has worked in an ongoing collaboration with renowned biologists the most comprehensive international seed banks in the world: the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Colorado, the Millennium Seed Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England; and PlantBank, Threatened Flora Centre, and Kings Park Botanic Gardens in Australia.  In this era of climate change and declining biodiversity, by collecting, researching seed biology, and storing seeds in secure vaults, seed banks play a vital role in ensuring the survival of genetic diversity in wild and agricultural species

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Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden no. 1,  Dornith Doherty. 

Digital collage made from x-rays captured at the Millennium Seed Bank (England)

Utilizing the archives’ on-site x-ray equipment that is routinely used for viability assessments of accessioned seeds, Doherty documents and subsequently collages the seeds and tissue samples stored in these crucial collections. The amazing visual power of magnified x-ray images, which springs from the technology’s ability to record what is invisible to the human eye, illuminates my considerations not only of the complex philosophical, anthropological, and ecological issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in relation to gene banking, but also of the poetic questions about life and time on a macro and micro scale.  Doherty is struck by the power of these tiny plantlets and seeds (many are the size of a grain of sand) to generate life and to endure the time span central to the process of seed banking, which seeks to make these sparks last for two hundred years or more.

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Columbian Exchange IIIDornith DohertyDigital collage made from x-rays captured at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (USA) and PlantBank (Australia)

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Seed Vault, Kuban Experimental Station, Russia, Dornith Doherty.

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Dornith Doherty artist process photo. 

Dornith Doherty at Svalbard Global Seed

DORNITH DOHERTY is an artist whose work is concerned with our stewardship of the natural environment. She documents the complex issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in preserving biodiversity, and reflects upon poetic questions about life and time through artworks created from x-rays captured from seeds, tissue samples, and cloned plants preserved in these collections.

A 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Dornith Doherty was born in Houston, Texas and received a B.A. cum laude from Rice University and a MFA in Photography from Yale University. In addition to the Guggenheim Fellowship, she has also received grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the Indiana Arts Commission, and the United States Department of the Interior, the University of North Texas, and the Houston Center for Photography. She has also been invited to present scholarly papers and artist talks at over 80 institutions and conferences worldwide.

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