2 scientists turned a human organ into an art project. Here are 11 stunning images.

Greg Dunn and Brian Edwards are scientists-turned-artists.

In their new project "Self Reflected," Dunn and Edwards used a new technique called micro-etching to illuminate one specific organ in the human body.

The pair developed the technique, which combines hand drawing, gilding, and photolithography along with data visualizations to create amazing art. It allows dynamic control of an image and its colors using reflective gold surfaces.


They took a slice of tissue of this mystery human organ and magnified it 22 times. And what they created was beyond incredible.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The kaleidoscopic vividness is surreal, but the sheer beauty of the images is only part of the story.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Each image looks wholly unique, but all the images are from a single human organ.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Can you guess what organ it is? We'll give you a hint...

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

If you zoom out a bit you'll see that...

Self-reflected in violets — the entire self reflected in micro-etching under violet and white light. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

...it's the brain!

Surprising, I know. My eyes still don't believe that this is a slice of the visual cortex.

The visual cortex, the region located at the back of the brain that processes visual information. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Or that this is a 22-times magnification of our brain stem.

Raw colorized micro-etching data from the reticular formation and brainstem. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

But that's the beautiful gilded truth.

The midbrain, an area that carries out diverse functions in reward, eye movement, hearing, attention, and movement. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

“Self Reflected was created to remind us that the most marvelous machine in the known universe is at the core of our being and is the root of our shared humanity,” they wrote on their site.

The thalamus and basal ganglia, sorting senses, initiating movement, and making decisions. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Combined, all the images in the series show only 500,000 neurons and circuits of the billions in the human brain. The images were hand-gilded with 1,750 sheets of 22-karat gold leaf.

The pons, a region involved in movement and implicated in consciousness. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The first version of "Self Reflected," which consists of 25 etched panels of the brain, is on permanent display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The micro-etching technique makes the appearance of the art completely dependent on lighting that can change the viewers’ experience each time they look at it.

The entire Self Reflected micro-etching under white light. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The ornate beauty of these images offers much more than what's on its surface. They are a glimpse into the organ that sets us apart as a species, that allows us the ability to create and appreciate art like this.

What Dunn and Edwards have done with this project is more than science and more than art — they've examined the deepest areas of our mind and found beauty reflected back at them.

Watch the video below to learn more about the project:

Clarification 4/29/2017: The article was updated to clarify that this photo project shows about 500,000 neurons and circuits in the brain, but in total the brain contains millions of them.

Most Shared