Your Navel Lint Makes a Beautiful Portrait as Unique as Your Fingerprint

Your Navel Lint Makes a Beautiful Portrait as Unique as Your Fingerprint
Esther, Cornwall (2015). All images courtesy of Joana Ricou. Used with permission.

Your belly button is teeming with microbial life—a mix of many different species unique to you. Brooklyn-based artist Joana Ricou creates “portraits” based on individual microbiomes. The result is some surprisingly lovely imagery.

Science has always informed Ricou’s art. Originally from Portugal, she studied art and biology at Carnegie Mellon University, spending equal time in both the laboratory and the art studio. For the microbiome portraits, she partnered with biologists Rob Dunn and Holly Menninger, both at North Carolina State University. Dunn and Menninger have been studying the teeming life inside our navels for several years as part of a research collective called Your Wild Life….

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