Allison Meighan, a final year jewellery and metalwork undergraduate at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at the University of Dundee, took inspiration for her final year project from mitochondrial DNA sequences. She compared Mesolithic MtDNA with contemporary British MtDNA using Jalview to align the strands of code and to visualise the points of difference. There were 38 differences noted in the 165,569 bases of the modern MtDNA ring.
The project’s centrepiece is a silver creation that represents the entire contemporary MtDNA molecule. Some links are powder coated red, inserted into the chain at points where the ancient and modern MtDNA molecules differ. The artwork was a study of the history of mankind and civilisation, respecting the achievements of our predecessors; particularly the Nabataeans of Petra and their goddess of power Al-Uzza. Allison chose mitochondrial DNA because of its unique inheritance pattern through the maternal line, and its aesthetic form. As well as using the nucleotide base arrangements in her artwork, she also used quantitative data generated from Jalview in her pieces. The artworks use contemporary materials (3D printed plastics and metals) mixed with traditional materials (concrete and hand fabricated metals). Their forms chosen to reflect the ancient gods of Petra, and contrasted with the graphic visualisation of the mitochondrial DNA code.
Allison Meighan has been awarded the Anne Clare Graham Award for ‘Excellence in Design and Craftmanship’ and the Association for Contemporary Jewellery Prize 2019 for this work. As well as featuring in a number of news outlets such as the ITV news.