Art exhibit on science of stem cells opens this weekend

Leslie Davis is exploring new territory in science, but she doesn’t work in a lab.

Opening Saturday at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana is “Regeneration,” a multi-artist exhibit celebrating advances in stem-cell research. Davis is the exhibit’s curator and featured artist.

The exhibit is dedicated to the newly opened Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine. The research lab is named after Bill Gross, co-founder of Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co., and his wife. The Grosses donated $10 million to the project. The state-of-the-art facility opened May 14 and houses more than 60 researchers specializing in stem cell and regenerative medicine.

Each stained-glass and metal sculpture created by Davis represents a different researcher and their contributions to the field of science and medicine, she said.

“Researchers are the real unsung heroes,” Davis said. “They work their whole lives for that one breakthrough that will change the lives of millions of people, and most of them will never get the recognition that they deserve.”

The semi-transparent rainbow hues of the glass draws in her audience. Once she has the audience’s attention, then she can move onto her real purpose: to educate.

“My focus is to inform, and you can do that with art much more quickly than the written word,” Davis said. “The majority of people are intimidated by mathematics and science, but when I make it visually appealing — eye candy — then it’s no longer intimidating.”

Davis is passionate about shining a light on scientific advances through her art and dispelling whatever misconceptions are holding people back, especially when it comes to the more controversial research fields like stem-cell research.

“You wouldn’t believe just how much in the dark people are, and it’s not their fault,” said Davis, who lives in Laguna Beach. “It’s simply a lack of education.”

“Regeneration” will also feature the work of Gregg Stone, Julia Klemek, Linda Southwell and Edgar Hoil. “Regeneration” will have an opening reception with music and refreshments on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The exhibit will run through June 27 and is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, from noon to 9 p.m., and Thursdays and Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m. The OC Center for Contemporary Art is at 117 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana.

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