By Kevin Merrill
To draw more attention to the influence of art in shaping our understanding of science and nature, the School of Natural Resources and Environment has opened an art gallery inside the Dana Building, the greenest building on the campus of the University of Michigan.
The Art & Environment Gallery will feature work from local and national artists whose work speaks to how people interact and understand the environment. The inaugural exhibition, “Watershed Moment,” features the work of Ann Arbor artist Leslie Sobel and five pieces exploring landscapes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (see images right and lower right).
“I have been fascinated with aerial views of landscape for many years. Chaperoning a high school service trip to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, made the power and the significance of the Mississippi River painfully, viscerally, real,” Sobel said. “These pieces were inspired by that trip and by my recent discovery of a series of beautiful survey maps of the Mississippi River done by Harold Fisk in the 1940s.”
The exhibits will rotate about every eight weeks and be presented in five glass showcases in the Dana Building’s First floor Commons.
“This gallery will draw attention to the intersecting values, both artistically and scientifically, of art and the environment,” said Sara Adlerstein, associate research scientist at SNRE and gallery organizer and curator. “Because of the way SNRE’s curriculum embraces interdisciplinary fields, it is a natural place to host this gallery. We are bringing art to our school to strengthen our sense of community and facilitate dialogue among students, faculty and staff in the spirit of green-building philosophy.”
Each show features an opening talk by the artist followed by a reception.
Artist statement: I have been fascinated with aerial views of landscape for many years. Chaperoning a high school service trip to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina made the power and the significance of the Mississippi River painfully, viscerally, real. These pieces were inspired by that trip and by my recent discovery of a series of beautiful survey maps of the Mississippi River done by Harold Fisk in the 1940s.
Some of these pieces start by making a digital image starting from old maps, changing them, drawing into them and altering them in Photoshop and printing them with my large format archival printer on Rives BFK paper. Some are purely hand-worked; only physical – using encaustic, collage, oil pastels, charcoal, conte and other media. The motion and physicality of the work echoes my emotion about the power of the river’s ever-changing channels. The two-part process of my work integrates technology and nature, echoing my thematic exploration of our interconnected environment.
Artist biography: Leslie Sobel received her BFA from the University of Michigan School of Art in 1983. She worked in computer graphics for many years and did Master’s degree work in Interdisciplinary Technology at Eastern Michigan University.
Sobel’s work focuses on the environment and the ways people change, understand and interact with it. Sobel uses a combination of scientific imaging including satellite and photomicrographs, computer code, & maps as well as mixed media with encaustic (wax based) paint and sculpture to create her work. A member of the Arts Alliance board and chair of the Milan Art Center, she co-founded the art alchemists, an artists‘ collective revolving around the use of digital tools in art-making. and was a partner in the Washington Street Gallery for a number of years. She is an avid hiker whose connection with the outdoors is crucial to her work. Sobel is married and has three young adult children. She has lived in southeast Michigan for more than 30 years and grew up in Chicago.
About the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment