Now on view at the MSJ Alter Library:
The Naturalist as Artist/The Artist as Naturalist
We welcome the MSJ community and members of the public to stop by the MSJ Alter Library to view this exhibit that features the creative research and visual investigations of students and professors from The Naturalist as Artist/The Artist as Naturalist (IDS 305), a 4 credit interdisciplinary science and fine art class taught during the fall semester of 2014 at Mount St. Joseph University. Items on display include sketchbooks, event maps, paper sculptures, drawings, and more.
Mary M. (Meg) Riestenberg, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Biology and Geology
Loyola Walter, M.F.A. Associate Professor of Art
Jerry Bellas, Cara Chrisman, Peter Gillaspy, Bridget Rowe, Joe Thurman, William Patrick Zopff
Librarian Exhibit Coordinators:
Cynthia Gregory, MLS, MFA, and Paul Jenkins, MLS
About the class:
In IDS 305, we investigate the question, “Can we as students of science take what is objectively studied and observed, and integrate it into our personal understanding of ourselves and the world via the transforming artistic process?” For the Science major, the course provides a tool to be used in truly seeing the natural world by means of detailed and accurate observations in field and laboratory studies. For the Art major the course provides an intensive engagement with the natural world through drawing – this year in three different sketchbooks. For everyone the course provides an expanded visual exploration, beyond what most drawing or science courses offer. The interaction of science majors with art majors enhances students’ depth of understanding of natural structures and organisms, ways of seeing and appreciating the complexity and beauty of the natural world, and a new awareness of its preciousness. In fact, the two themes the class is built upon and revolve around are wonder and the interconnectedness of all things. As David George Haskell writes in his book, The Forest Unseen: a Year’s Watch in Nature, (2012):
“When wonder matures, it peels back experience to seek deeper layers of marvel below. This is science’s highest purpose.”
2014 Course process and elements:
Inspired by the opening of this wonderful book, students committed to a semester-long observation of a natural mandala, a chosen place outdoors in nature in which they closely observed and drew changes over the shift from summer to winter. Class field trips were taken to Miami Whitewater, Spring Grove Cemetery, the Oxbow, and the ultimate Adams County Edge of Appalachia Preserve for drawing on location. Labs with microscope studies prefaced, paralleled, and brought all into intense magnification! Visits to the Hauck Collection at the Cincinnati Museum Center /Cincinnati History Library and Archives, and the Lloyd Library, allowed for observation of original historic naturalist sketchbooks. And in splendid synchronicity, the creation of the Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Sand Mandala by the Monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery Sacred Arts Tour Eastern Group in Studio San Giuseppe Art Gallery was a gift from the course to the entire MSJ community.
Course texts/reading included:
Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse” and “Living Like Weasels” From The Annie Dillard Reader. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1994.
David George Haskell, The Forest Unseen: a Year’s Watch in Nature. New York: Viking, 2012.
Hannah Hinchman, A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, W.W. Norton and Company, 1999.
Clare W. Leslie and Charles E. Roth, Keeping a Nature Journal, 2nd edition. Storey Publishing, 2000.
(Ask an MSJ Librarian how to check out free copies of these readings by using OhioLINK.)