Alison Stewart was a biologist. Every day, she would stare through a microscope at tissue. Looking through that microscope inspired her to look at the world differently, and she began sharing that viewpoint through her art.
That viewpoint is one of a naturalist and conservationist. She is joined by five other artists in the exhibit AQUAFLORA, which will have pieces hosted in the Cook Library Art Gallery, Oddfellows Gallery and the Lauren Rodgers Museum of Art.
The gallery is largely themed around the natural world, with artist Carlyle Wolf providing floral inspired paintings, Bassmi Ibrahim’s works focusing on natural movement and Suzanna Fields and Jasmina Danowski exploring natural shapes and formations.
“The imagery off the floor presents a kind of watery and floral-type media is captured directly from these images,” said Kyle Goddard, gallery director of Oddfellows Gallery.
Stewart’s focus is on the swamplands surrounding New Orleans, her home city. “The Louisiana wetlands are replete with a fragile beauty and they are vanishing at an alarming rate,” Stewart said.
The biggest outlier is Judy Pfaff, who rides the line between sculpture and painting by arranging different items on a flat surface. Pfaff’s art mixes organic and inorganic material to represent the different aspects of life.
Pfaff was featured in the PBS channel’s “Art 21” documentary series and has grown a global following since her debut in the mid-80s.
“We’ve had some people with their eyes light up when they find out we have Judy Pfaff,” Goddard said.
Themes of death and loss are present in Stewart’s and Fields’ pieces. In her artist statement, Fields said she tries to mix a feeling of wonder and excitement with a feeling of sickness and unease.
In contrast, Stewart focuses more on mortality and the ecosystem as a whole.
“My painting serves to call our attention to the notion that what we do to one part of the web of life affects the entire web,” Stewart said. “My involvement with issues of beauty is tempered by my concern about issues of loss.”
AQUAFLORA runs from Jan. 22 to March 22 in all three locations. The official opening reception for Lauren Rogers Museum will be on Jan. 30 from 6:30-8 p.m. Oddfellows will be Jan. 31 from 5-7 p.m.
For more information, contact the USM Department of Art and Design at 601.266.4972.