Museum exhibition showcases talent of Auburn University faculty

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Art is more than putting paint or ink on a page – it can evoke emotions, trigger memories or provide inspiration. Beyond that, it can serve as a window for viewing the world.

The 2016 Auburn University Department of Art and Art History Studio Faculty Exhibition at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art through March 20 showcases not only the talent of university faculty, but also how art creates connections to both the local community and the rest of the world. The exhibition includes work created by tenured, tenure-track and part time faculty.

Among the benefits of the exhibition are allowing faculty to forge stronger bonds with their students and students being able to witness their teachers practicing what they preach.

Professor of art Wendy Deschene uses the exhibition as an example of how she pushes herself and why she expects her students to do the same.

"I ask so much of my students," Deschene said. "I ask them to not go with their first idea, to keep plugging away and to keep thinking about an idea as deeply as they can, so it's really quite awesome that they can come to the museum and see my work and see how those types of things that I'm asking them to do manifest themselves into something I can share with them and the community at large."

The exhibition highlights the research conducted by the faculty, with the variety of research topics reflected in the variety of artwork. Through art, scientific problems and their solutions can be examined in ways that are accessible to the general public.

For example, Allyson Comstock, chair of the Department of Art and Art History, recently received a National Science Foundation grant to fund her artistic research in Antarctica. She says that her art puts the research scientists are working on into a very visible perspective.

"I think the broad message, the way I proposed it to the NSF, is that what happens on the macro level affects things at the microscopic level, and vice-versa. The change is very connected in terms of an ecosystem," Comstock said. "The NSF grants these opportunities to artists and writers because they understand that science is sometimes impenetrable to the average person. They thought either something written, like poetry or something visual would be a way to present the understanding of Antarctica in a different way that is maybe more accessible."

Comstock's funded work is currently on display in the exhibition.

According to Deschene and Comstock, many people they encounter do not associate art with research, so providing everyone with the opportunity to view their work during an exhibition like this helps to bridge that gap.

"It's really important for artists to get their research out so that others can see the magic that happens in the classrooms and in our studios, because I think primarily, there's some confusion on how it's taught and how it's about ideas and research and can be very complex," Deschene said." Exhibiting our work presents our research to the world in a way that is more understandable because it boils it down to an image or to a sculpture that presents the ideas in a non-threatening way."

The museum is an ideal place for this special type of exhibition to take place. Not only are the artists faculty members who have had their art displayed all over, the visitors are both students of the university and community members who have a passion for art. Having the artists so close in proximity allows for unique experiences.

During the exhibition, faculty members host art talks -- informal conversations about their pieces and research – while in the museum.

"Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is committed to this triennial exhibition of the creative research and expression of the Auburn University art faculty," said the museum's director, Marilyn Laufer. "The program is not only a unique opportunity for both campus and community to see a selection of recent artistic expressions by these artists and educators but it also – through JCSM's weekly Little Art Talks – provides a chance to be part of a serious conversation that conveys, first-hand, the many different challenges of art making in the 21stcentury."

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.