An artist’s celebration of microorganisms

Installation in Progress through November 2021
Exhibition through 2023

With COVID-19, microorganisms have dramatically migrated from natural science and medicine onto center stage in politics, history, and civil society. Through the artistry of Jim Cogswell, microorganisms can be seen in a delightful and colorful expression on the windows of the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. 

Unseen Worlds is an adhesive vinyl mural on the theme of microorganisms. Cogswell, who is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Art & Design in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, made ink paintings of more than 350 microorganisms which were transferred to a digital format to create machine-cut vinyl film. The brightly colored vinyl pieces make visible the world of the unseen, creating a link between art and natural science.

Three student researchers were essential to this effort: Sky Cristoph (BFA, Stamps, 2023), Kai Hamill (BFA. Stamps, 2021), Beverly Fu (B.S. in Microbiology from LSA, 2021).

Cogswell also worked with numerous U-M faculty and other researchers from around the world. He would especially like to thank Melissa Duhaime, Assistant Professor, U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Karie Slavik, Associate Director, U-M Biological Station; Deborah L. Gumucio, PhD, Professor Emerita, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and the Department of Internal Medicine; and Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy, Education, and LSA Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education.


It will take Jim Cogswell and his assistants approximately three months to complete the installation of Unseen Worlds. Expected completion date is late November 2021. Stop by the museum or check back here to view the process.