Morrill Hall art exhibit drawing from science of bats to open Nov. 11

Audrey Stommes paints a goose from the University of Nebraska State Museum's Division of Zoology.
Audrey Stommes paints a goose from the University of Nebraska State Museum's Division of Zoology.

On Nov. 11, a new art exhibit will open at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Morrill Hall that highlights the artistic side of the museum’s research collections.

“Origins” is a collection of 10 paintings by graduate student Audrey Stommes. The series depicts bats in the museum’s Division of Zoology, interweaving postmodern artistic expression with elements of scientific research. The exhibit will be on display through January.

“Origins” reflects the transitional state of ambiguity between humans and animals.

“I wanted the pieces to explore the idea of humans as animals, and the similarities we have,” said Stommes. “Bats have the same bone structure as humans except for their skull and wings. By painting them slightly off, and making their origins less recognizable, I tried to push the question of ‘what is it?’”

The artwork was created using gouache, graphite, and watercolor pencil. Each piece features transparent fog oscillating between the background and the bats floating in jars of alcohol. This fog element, which is actually the fat seeping out of the bats, is the transition between the environment and the cluster of specimens.

Stommes began sketching specimens in the zoology preparation lab in 2010. Over time, her interest in the collections grew into the “Origins” exhibit. According to Stommes, the interdisciplinary collaboration with the museum has stretched her skills as an artist by allowing her to work directly with the researchers and the specimens they archive and preserve every day.

“Working in the Zoology collections has been an amazing opportunity. With my work, I not only want to enjoy my paintings and get something from the experience— but I also hope to raise awareness of this amazing part of campus that is not commonly known,” said Stommes.

The collaboration has been rewarding for the museum researchers as well.

“Audrey’s art offers a fresh, creative, and respectful interpretation of the scientific research collections from the perspective of fine art,” said collections manager Thomas Labedz. “Her work in zoology has helped us adopt a more artistic eye towards what we see daily in the care and research of museum collections.”

Admission to the museum is free for faculty, staff, students and their immediate family (with a valid NCard).

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