Anáhuac University hosts 2011 and 2013 Bioethics Art Competition Winning Pieces in Mexico City

The Anáhuac University in Mexico City displayed the winning pieces of the 2011 and 2013 Bioethics Art Competition in its school of architecture during the Fourth International Bioethics, Multiculturalism and Religion Conference in Mexico City. The following is a personal reflection shared at the exhibit’s opening ceremony from art gallery owner Yvonne Denbina, one of the competition’s founders. Her account expresses how the works have stimulated minds and touched hearts around the world. Her experience also suggests that future competitions will continue foster the art of convergence and cooperation in global ethics through the universal language of art. A catalogue of the winning pieces can be found online for 2011 competition here and for the 2013 competition here.

I am an humble artist, not a bioethicist nor a philosopher.  But I have listened with interest to those present in the conference this week as they have discussed many ideas, elaborated with many words. In September of 2010, Father Joseph Tham and Alberto Garcia visited my art gallery in Old Town Spring, Texas and shared with me their mission to explore ways to connect art and Bioethics. I shared with them my experiences with the art competitions that I had organized in my gallery to benefit breast cancer research. Marie Valdez, a friend and an art professor, was also in the gallery that day and the four of us began exchanging possibilities, discussing ideas. A week later, a group of friends gathered at my house to hear Father Tham and Dr. Garcia’s remarks about the UNESCO Chair and soon we had a competition underway.

From thoughts, come words, then action. I stand before you today with a whole array of thoughts, which begat words in the form of artist statements and then actions in the images you see in this exhibition. In the course of four years, as the art has been exhibited in Rome, New York, Houston, Hong Kong, Spring and The Woodlands, TX, I have spoken with many people as they view the images. I would like to share some of those conversations with you.

In the first image, “Sisters”, we have a black and white photograph of two young women, one black, the other white, with similar hairstyles and beautiful complexions. They are facing each other, touching at the forehead, with a long strand of natural pearls connecting them around the neck.  A woman in the gallery asked me, “Do you really believe that?  That they are Sisters?” I wasn’t sure if she was asking me whether their familial relationship was possible, or if they could be as sisters in a social relationship.  I responded, “look at their beautiful complexions, their similarities….” She was quick to respond, “No, I don’t believe that can be, or should be.”

I drew her attention to another image of two nearly identical human hearts, with dissection around the same vessels, “Hearts.” “Look at this picture,” I said. “Can you tell me if this heart belongs to a black person or a white person?  A Buddhist?  A Norwegian? A Communist? We all have hearts and skin and we are all human.  Aren’t we brothers and sisters because we are all human?”

In another example, “Olga” we have a photograph taken of a 92-year-old woman living with her daughter and family. She suffers from dementia and is bedridden. A frequent response to this image is that of individuals recoiling and expressing their inability to look at the photograph.  I ask why this is so painful for them.  They respond that it reminds them of a family member who was in a nursing home or hospital.  I am able to relay the artist’s information that in this situation, Olga is at home in familiar surroundings cared for by those who know her and love her.  Dying is a part of life, just like birth.  If, as in Olga’s case, we are fortunate to see a long life, and we are given the time to experience a dying process, we must remember to celebrate the life spanning birth and death.  Each day of life is a gift, whether it is difficult or exhilarating.  We must all go through death, not as a process to fear, but a transition that concludes the opportunities we choose on Earth. It is natural and it may or may not have complications, but it is not a process to recoil from.

The opportunity for dialogue occurs when we offer the stimulus for provocative interaction. The winning images in the competition are selected by international judges in the arts and sciences. These images selected represent the artists speaking through their images and words. I, the artist, share my heart with you the viewer and you, the viewer, share with those you know what your impressions and responses may be.  We begin a ripple of love.  And that is how we affect the world: with ripples of love, with conversations about what we have in common, how we are united in finding comfort and how we long to live in love and peace.


Hong Kong University Exhibits 2013 Bioethics Art Competition Winners at “The Making of Peace Makers”

The fifteen winning art pieces of 2013 UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights Bioethics Art Completion began another exhibition on February 24, 2014 lasting until March 7, 2014 in the Lobby of the Chi Wah Learning Commons in the Hong Kong University.

The Second Bioethics Art Competition of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights held its inauguration ceremony in Hong Kong at the Gallery by the Harbour of the Harbour City Shopping Mall on December 7, 2013.

In 2011, the First Bioethics Art Competition Exhibit was unveiled in the UN Headquarters in New York City.  The competition received 225 submissions from 23 countries by 132 artists reflecting upon the need to “Respect Human Vulnerability, Personal Integrity, Cultural Diversity and Pluralism.”

The 15 pieces of winning artworks of 2013 selected from three categories including Fine Arts, Photography and Student Art shed a special light on how to behave ethically in the areas of life sciences and biotechnology.  Future exhibitions are slated for New York, Rome, Mexico City and Houston in 2014.

To learn about the art exhibit and other activities of the university, visit the following link:

Second UNESCO Chair Bioethics Art Competition Exhibit Opens in Hong Kong

By Michael Baggot

The Second Bioethics Art Competition of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights held its inauguration ceremony in Hong Kong at the Gallery by the Harbour of the Harbour City Shopping Mall on December 7, 2013.

“Through the universal language of art, our competition reaches not only those who study bioethics in the classroom, but all people” announced UNESCO Chair Director Alberto Garcia.

The 15 winning art pieces of the international competition were exhibited during the UNESCO Chair Bioethics, Multiculturalism and Religion Conference at Hong Kong Baptist University, before moving to the Harbour City Gallery.  The exhibition is slated for display in the New York United Nations Headquarters, Rome, Houston and Mexico City in 2014.

“These impressive works of art, if used as tools for teaching bioethics in Hong Kong, would contribute significantly toward the multi-disciplinary learning experience of students.” observed Dr. Vivian Taam Wong, one of the competition’s Hong Kong-based judges.

In 2012, artists were invited to “create an image, with respect for all cultures and religions that speaks to the impact of life sciences for present and future generations.”  In short, participants were given creative liberty to visually “illustrate love, compassion and care” in accord with articles 12 and 16 of the Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights.

“The use of visual art, which transcends languages and ethnic as well as other traditions, remains a most effective platform for increasing communication and understanding among racial, religious and age groups.” added Dr. Lam Man Kit,  another Hong Kong-based judge.

The competition is fruit of the UNESCO Chair’s conviction that the mission of fostering the art of convergence and cooperation in global ethics is a universal mission that entails the participation of individuals from all backgrounds and professions.

“Drawing from so many cultures allows those who see the works to get a better understanding of how people in other places experience vulnerability, ask questions about life, express compassion, and challenge minds and medicine.” added American judge Dr. Colleen M. Gallager.

The competition was divided into the categories of Fine Arts, Photography and Student Art (ages 13-17), with a Best of Show and four other winning pieces for each category.  Artists from 18 different countries submitted work to an international panel of 10 judges.

An image of the winning works and a brief explanation of the piece from the respective artist can be seen on the competition’s official page.

In the category of Fine Arts, the Best of Show was Giovanni Gasparro, with Eric Carson, Andrea Colella, Carmelo Maria Carollo, Giacomo Rizzo as additional winners.  In the category of Photography, the Best of Show was Ben DeSoto, with Joni Kabana, Barbara Doran, Jerry Galea, Carlo Paluzzi as additional winners.  In the category of Student Art, the Best of Show was Ka Wun Cheung, with Eileen Hwang, John McCabe, Emma Meyler, Theresa Reed as additional winners.

According to article 12, “The importance of cultural diversity and pluralism should be given due regard. However, such considerations are not to be invoked to infringe upon human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, nor upon the principles set out in this Declaration, nor to limit their scope.”

According to Article 16, “The impact of life sciences on future generations, including on their genetic constitution, should be given due regard.”

In 2011, the First Bioethics Art Competition Exhibit was unveiled in the UN Headquarters in New York City.  The competition received 225 submissions from 23 countries by 132 artists reflecting upon the need to “Respect Human Vulnerability, Personal Integrity, Cultural Diversity and Pluralism.”

Yvonne Denbina, Chair of the Bioethics Art Competition, explains that the competition originated from a conversation with UNESCO Chair Director Alberto Garcia and Chair Fellow Fr. Jospeh Tham, LC regarding the role of art in bioethical discourse.

“I thought that a competition focused on bioethics could be an activity that would appeal to many artists.  The challenge was to gather interested individuals, then to create a vision and a statement to inspire artists to reach into their own hearts.  From the heart of the artist would spring the images that would move and touch others, viewers of their creations.  This could be the way to link bioethics to art.” said Denbina.

Denbina is already working with her international staff to prepare the third Bioethics Art Competition and expects to incorporate an even wider range of artist medium, including film.


School Celebrates Anniversary with Winning Students and a Personal Congratulation 

Two  winners of the Bioethics Global Art Competition’s Student Category met the Director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights at their high school, Pinecrest Academy, in Cumming, GA on September 6, 2013. 

Dr. Alberto Garcia spoke to Juniors and Seniors about emerging issues in bioethics, and invited them to be involved and informed of worldwide efforts for the protection of human rights. Theresa Reed and John McCabe were recognized in front of their classmates for their winning artwork, contributing to the pride and celebration of Pinecrest Academy’s 20th Anniversary, which happened to coincide with Dr. Garcia’s visit. 

Dr. Garcia led an interactive assembly of 108 students, addressing their questions about dignity, compassion, technology, and medicine. Dr. Garcia shared his personal experiences as a high school student, “I never imagined that I would be addressing topics that are so important to human rights – all I thought about back then was soccer.”

He challenged the students to take advantage of the subjects they were studying, and reminded them that it wouldn’t be too long before they were facing these topics in the real world, reassuring the students that these topics are relevant to people of all ages. 

Theresa Reed and John Paul McCabe were met with applause from their classmates as Dr. Garcia thanked them personally for their example of leadership and for having accepted the challenge to express the effects of bioethics on future generations in a visual way with their artwork. 

Michael Gannon, U.S. Executive Director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights and Student Winner, Theresa Reed.

Reed and McCabe explained the inspiration for their artwork with classmates and faculty. They both referred to the subject of cloning, sharing their own thoughts and winning pieces. Reed’s work, “Amissio Faciem,” depicts a cloned girl’s hopelessness. Reed shared the meaning in the colors of her work, “the cloning has gotten so out of hand that her identity has been carelessly piled around her in sterile and lifeless white.” 

McCabe’s winning piece, “Being Unique?” conveys the desire for uniqueness that is lost through cloning and other bioethical issues. His artwork is captured and “placed in petri dishes to symbolize the stem cell research that takes play within those dishes,” he explains in his submission artist statement.

The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights is proud of all the students who participated in the 2013 Bioethics Art Competition, and looks forward to meeting personally with more artists in the future.