Campus artists draw inspiration from natural history for exhibition at art museum

Published: June 13, 2016
Updated: June 19, 2016
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The work of nine artists from the Auburn campus community will be on display at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine art in the exhibition, "Call and Response," June 18 through Oct. 23 in the Louise Hauss and David Brent Miller Audubon Galleries. The exhibition features natural history prints and specimens paired with the artists' interpretation of those items using processes ranging from drawing to new media and creative writing.

"Through donor gifts, the museum's collection of natural history prints is growing in new areas beyond its already strong foundation of John James Audubon prints," said Scott Bishop, museum education curator and university liaison who organized the exhibition. Contributors and examples are from the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the Auburn University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives. "The resulting exhibition is an orchestrated chorus of diverse voices responding to the art, science and wonder of representing the natural world."

Respondents include Barb Bondy, visual artist (drawing); Kathryn Braund, historian; Anton DiSclafani, fiction writer; Andrew Kozlowski, printmaker; Zdenko Krtić, painter; Keetje Kuipers, poet; Jessye McDowell, new media artist; Rose McLarney, poet; and Claire Wilson, editor, Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Krtić's "Nocturnal Flight" is based on both an original artwork and an anatomical skeleton. The barred owl and great horned owl are both common in East Alabama. In his print, he noted the importance of reestablishing a connection with nature, or wildness, that may be lost as we age.

"Being nocturnal and often hidden from view, owls that tend to be solitary became symbolic," he said. "The gift of premonition was ascribed to them perhaps because they live in the darkness and silence of the night—a space we can enter to concentrate and compose our thoughts. For these reasons, and to showcase their majesty, I have depicted them in negative, looking almost like ghostly giant moths."

McDowell's "The Natural Kinds" is a landscape built in 3D modeling software, incorporating elements of illustrations by John James Audubon and John Gould. While Gould and Audubon created their works through direct observation and physical materials and processes, McDowell explained that her work, in contrast, is created with the virtual and non-material.

"The imaginary landscape depicted is its own kind of frontier, approached through technology, and a catalyst for shifting conceptions of the natural," she said.

Other exhibitions on view include "The Lost Bird Project," the Arkansas Art Center's "Face to Face: Artists' Self-Portraits from the Collection of Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr." and selections from the museum's permanent collection, including the Auburn Oak Bowl, Advancing American Art and silkscreen prints by Andy Warhol. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m. On Thursdays, the Museum Café is open from 5-8 p.m. with live music. Admission to the museum is free; a five-dollar donation is appreciated. For more information, visit www.jcsm.auburn.edu or call 334-844-1484.

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