For Pulse: Deconstructing HPV

“Deconstructing HPV” is as much about the magnificent engineering of virus structures as it is about the human quest to understand what can hurt us.  In addition to addressing scientific exploration, it is a cautionary piece about treading carefully through the social implications of medical precautions and assumptions about human behavior.  Recently, all children, male and female, aged 12 and older are required to receive a three-shot inoculation against HPV, which can be transmitted through sexual contact.

For “Deconstructing HPV,” I made a full model of the HPV virus – an icosahedron comprising 140 triangles with focal groups of 5 triangles each.

Wire armature for Deconstructing HPV, starting to cover intersections with flax paper

The surface is only fully covered on part of the piece, revealing the interior as though the skin is being peeled away, one triangle at a time.  I hung a wooden plumb bob in the center, a measure of the balance of the structure and a colder, mathematical examination of the form.

The plumb bob has a screw-off cap and a small space inside, into which I tucked a few lines of Helena’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste. (1.1.6)

 I do not oppose inoculations that can help us avoid the transmission of terrible afflictions.  I do not doubt that kids as young as 12 are exposed to HPV through sexual contact.  I hope that the conversations we have with our children about sex, increasingly filled with warnings about pregnancy and STDs and urgings to inhibit hasty actions, can also include some discussion of the wonders of love and being comfortable with one’s own body.

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  1. [...] With metal and broken shards of glass, Jessica Beels brings disease to life. From the microscopic HPV virus to blood clots and galaxies of neurons, Beels crafts the symbolic works of art with an [...]

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