You're looking a deadly virus right in the face, but it's not a new work of microscopy or nano-imaging. Instead, it's a giant model made by Minnesota artist Aliston Hiltner. To confront us with the strange beauty of pathogens in her latest show, "Pathology," she used 6,000 balloons. Her work also includes weirdly industrial looking replacement hearts and kidneys, and a whole range of supervillain gear, including hypno-goggles and a mask that encrypts your evil plans. Click through for a gallery.

In Hiltner's latest work, she satirizes our crazy paranoia about pandemics, fed by the big pseudo-science media. The "Pathology" exhibit also includes some wall art by Suzy Greenberg. Says Hiltner:

My current work focuses on the secret life of micro organisms, drawing from the hysteria of mass media science. I create humorous and disturbing situations in which our bacterial cohabiters cultivate a visible imprint on our everyday lives. I am fascinated with the discrepancies of rhetoric versus reality both in science and human nature. In "Pathological," these persistent life forms attempt to adapt, evolve and thrive, revealing beckoning landscapes instead of disease infested traps. Perhaps it is a well packaged con or a sincere plea for acceptance, depending on your point of view... In creating these formations that are at once familiar yet novel I want to establish a bridge between fears of the unknown and the exhilaration of discovery.

And here are some pictures from her earlier exhibitions. We Will Rebuild You (2006) includes weird artificial organs, like a ceramic artificial lung and a metal-and-plastic artificial heart. Her Supervillain Start-Up Kit (2004) includes the aforementioned hypno-goggles, along with some truly amazing advertisements aimed at the supervillain on the go. No evil lair should be without them!

She explains:

Our biology is the one persistent truth to our existence, but as technology evolves even this truth will become malleable. And if that is the case, how will it change they way we coexist with this awkward corporeal shell we call the human body? The writer Mary Roach sums up this uncomfortable relationship perfectly: "We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget." Our society is immersed in the business of easing the inevitability of that rather unpleasant reality, full of remedies to improve our fragile temporal predicament.

My work is a whimsical and at times sardonic examination of how popular cultural can influence societies' interpretations of biology, creating a tenuous relationship between necessity and desire. I alter the familiar objects of our daily existence into pseudo scientific products that ponder our ceaseless drive to conquer the biological limitations we where born with. These gleaming tidbits of technology I create are preposterous, materialistic, amusing and strangely optimistic, representing a slice of the complex tapestry that is human nature.

[Alison Hiltner, via V]