Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.


CSU cooperates with photography prof at U. of Texas to create x-ray art

November 18, 2009

The connection between art and science traces back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the popularization of x-rays as a new way of seeing. Demonstrations of Roentgen's invention were arranged at department stores, and skepticism led to different reactions, including satirical caricatures with skeletons and advertising for lead underwear - fully x-ray proof. Despite the increasing knowledge about this technology, the fascination with the possibility of seeing beyond flesh and skin remains to this day.

From radiation training to Photoshop

After receiving x-ray training from CSU’s Radiation Control Office, the artist Dornith Doherty spent the summer of 2009 producing x-ray photographs of seeds and tissue samples of cloned plants, in collaboration with the university’s USDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, or NCGRP.

“The extraordinary visual power of x-rays, springing from the ability to record what is invisible to human vision, was the prospect that influenced me to use it as an image-making tool. The cross-disciplinary dialogue with plant physiologist and lead curator of the Plant Genetic Resources Preservation Program, Dave Ellis, has created an opportunity to strengthen and expand the project in surprising and unanticipated directions”, says Doherty.

Ellis complements that the x-ray equipment at the NCGRP is very safe to use and does not require the use of radiation badges. “The training provided by the Radiation Control Office helped us understand the different types of radiation and the safe use of radioactive equipment and ways to monitor radiation. These classes were required prior to unsupervised use of the digital x-ray machine.”

Archiving Eden

The result of this cooperation is the series Archiving Eden, which involves digital manipulation of the x-ray shots to create mandala shapes and organic designs, with the goal to evoke ecological concerns. Doherty’s goal is to transfigure and interpret the visual information, rather than simply illustrating scientific data. The aesthetic effect is stunning and although the transparency of the images is almost ethereal, it is easy to recognize the organic subject matter, which is the artist’s focus.

“I consider the x-ray files as photographs made with a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. I am fascinated by systems in which knowledge of past times and distant places is transmitted by capturing, transporting, and displaying diverse visual evidence, be it natural history specimens or expeditionary photographs. The work I'm doing at CSU has a 19th century expeditionary facet to it, albeit made with 21st century technology”, adds Doherty.

Dornith Doherty was born in Houston, Texas and received a B.A. from Rice University in Houston and a MFA in Photography from Yale University. She currently resides in Dallas and is a professor of Photography at the University of North Texas. Samples of her work are available on the artist’s website:

Contact: Fernanda Dore
Phone: (970) 491-4835