In 2023 I painted the “Pentachrome” series over the course of several months in the summer. The three paintings feature images inspired by stains made and captured by Katelin Murphy who is working as a histotechnician working in veterinary pathology in the United states.

Process of the cartilage painting

We met some years ago on Instagram. We thought about doing a collaboration from time to time. And then I saw some pictures of Kate’s Pentachrome stained tissues and was immediately very excited to paint them. Before that I had painted some images for the Pretty in Pink series and was a bit fed up with the limited pink and purple color palette, as all the paintings featured tissues in H&E staining. So the colorful stains caught my attention. I asked Kate how she came across it:

“The first time I came across the pentachrome stain was about a year and a half ago when I started a new job. The lab I’m in now uses the pentachrome kit primarily to stain arteries in the heart. This is due to its ability to differentiate the muscle, elastic fibers, mucins, and fibrin. It can be a tricky stain, but we really enjoy doing it every chance that we get!”

I consider myself very lucky that Kate shared those images with me since we don’t do this kind of staining in our lab. Painting this series brought me so much joy and reminded me of one of my first series I painted that was all about the different stains used in histology and pathology. I love how the paintings turned out and that we made this connection across continents because we share a love for art and science. This is what Kate said about it when I asked her what drives her work:

 “My inspiration is drawn from the intersection of art and science. The histology lab plays a pivotal role in hospitals and universities. Yet its’ a world filled with infinite and fascinating beauty. The microscopic structures and functions that help us to live our everyday lives is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. We have such infinite beauty within ourselves, and most people don’t even know it.”

Reference for the Colon Painting

Reference for the Skin Painting

Reference for the Cartilage Painting

Pentachrome I (Colon)

Pentachrome II (Skin)

Pentachrome III (Cartilage)

I had a similar experience explaining my artwork to a lot of people without any background in medicine/biology in the last couple of months as I started to exhibit my work locally. I was scared that not a lot of people can acknowledge the particular beauty but when I took the time to explain more about my artwork, people were genuinely interested and even told me it made them think about their bodies differently.

But also, within the field the beauty is recognized and celebrated in special ways. The second painting (Skin) was inspired by a Photograph Kate took and won the “Art of Stain” of The National Society for Histotechnology contest with.

“The National Society for Histotechnology is an organization that creates a global community centered around histology. They offer education, advocacy, and a place to share ideas and grow the field of histology. Every year they host the “Art of the Stain” contest, which gives members the opportunity to showcase their work. I felt incredibly honored to have won the 2023 contest. The fact that so many people loved my image fills me with so much pride and joy.”

I want to express many thanks to Kate for sharing her work with me and hope I was able to pay the favor forward by translating the beauty she captured into another dimension. Thank you Kate and I agree 100 % the following sentiment:

“I look forward to spending the rest of my life advocating and educating people on the wonders of the microscopic world. There truly is an entire universe with ourselves, we just need some stains to see it!”

Make sure to check Kate’s Instagram for more amazing microscopic images. If you love this colorful series, you can find prints of the paintings and more in the shop.

GDPR Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner