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Project Statement

by PB Hastings

The Scarlet Genotype is an artists’ book from a body of work created around the idea that our vices, defects, and predispositions, as determined by our genetic information, will be the new Scarlet Letter – a new form of social out-casting. In the future, our own genetic code will be used against us, just as Hester’s own genetic offspring, Pearl, was used as evidence against her. Humiliation in the public square will be replaced by lockout from health insurance, jobs, and stigmatized reproduction. How dare we reproduce with the knowledge of our own genetic defects? What forms of control will be exerted over our genetic data? In fact, these processes have already begun... The Scarlet Genotype was originally conceived for the group exhibition Exposing Scarlet: A Visual Response to the Scarlet Letter at Mills Gallery/Boston Center for the Arts, September 10 – October 31, 2004. Inspired by the Bicentennial celebration of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life and work, a group of artists were invited to explore the conceptual and visual evocations of Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter. Working in a range of media spanning from installation to painting, these artists inquired into whether, and how, the issues raised in the novel are relevant in today’s society. Publication History (if needed, additional notes about publication history): There are two versions of this book. One is an altered/process book and one is a multimedia book-like object and performance.

The Scarlet Genotype

Pattie Belle Hastings


Pattie Belle Hastings

type: initiating


born: USA

birth: 1961-03-24

Nathaniel Hawthorne

type: other


born: USA

birth: 1804-00-00
death: 1864-00-00

Publication Information

publisher: workinprocess

conception: 2004-05-00
production: 2004-06-00: 2004-10-00
publication: 2004-10-00

Aesthetic Profile


artists' books (LCSH)

themes: The Scarlet Letter, genetics, feminism [PB Hastings]

content form:
altered book (local)

publication tradition:
unique (local)

inspiration: The Scarlet Letter, performance art, bio-informatics, sketchbooks and notebooks, scientific encyclopedias [PB Hastings]

Exhibition Information

exhibition history: Boston Center for the Arts, Mills Gallery, 2004-10-00

reception history: Boulanger, Susan, “Tempted by a Dream,”Art New England, December/January 05. Potvin, Kimberly, “Exposing Scarlet at the Mills,” Big Red & Shiny magazine, Issue 12, 11/04, http://www.bigreadandshiny.com. Garvey, Thomas, “Written in Scarlet,” South End News, 10/14/04. McQuaid, Cate, “Red-letter days at the BCA reveal Society’s secrets,” Boston Sunday Globe, 10/10/04. “Exposing Scarlet @ The Mills” by Kimberly Potvin “Although most artists in the exhibition Exposing Scarlet investigate religion, love, or sexuality in the work, there is one artist in particular who took an extremely innovative and original approach to the novel in question. There were two mixed media works by Pattie Belle Hastings that stepped beyond the usual interpretation. The first was an artist's book titled, The Scarlet Genotype. This book was originally The Scarlet Letter, but the artist chose to highlight specific words, remove various passages, and add scientific data from a wide array of sources. Much of the information that was added appeared to originate from scientific texts investigating genetics, DNA and how these can determine or rationalize the actions of an individual. Hastings transformed The Scarlet Letter to incorporate the contemporary themes of science, genetics, and what can be gleaned from these two fields of investigation. The second work by Hastings was a DVD projection on a three-dimensional sculpture. As you enter the petite and intimate viewing room at the Mills Gallery, you are greeted by a rocking chair, painted in white. In the chair is a white cast of a pregnant torso, smooth, unlined, and voluptuous in its beauty. On the sculpture, there is a continuous projection of slowly rotating imagery. The apparitions are a mixture of female portraits, strains of DNA, and other genetic codes. This multi-media piece, along with Hasting's book, question our current scientific applications and the effect that they may have on contemporary women, but at the same time, reflect back on how genetics might alter our perceptions of the characters in The Scarlet Letter. Could Hester be perceived differently in the light of science? Is scientific practice replacing religion to be the judge and jury in human behavior? Is science the answer to investigate morality, sin, and sexuality?”

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: ephemera, DVDs, test prints, digital files, rocking chair, Fortran pregnant torso