May 9, 2018
Story by Micah Oelze
The Shafer Art Gallery to host CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions Art and Science Encounter Series: Beauty and the Beetle
The Shafer Art Gallery will host an opening reception for the CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions Art and Science Encounter Series: Beauty and the Beetle featuring sculptures by Gar Waterman and photos by William Guth at 6:30 p.m. on May 18, in the gallery. The exhibit runs through July 6. Larger than life sculptures of beetles made out of scrap metal and micro-photography of beetles on large prints allow visitors to see the intricate beauty of the insects.
Growing up, Waterman often found himself surrounded by marine life alongside his father Stan Waterman, one of the pioneer underwater filmmakers in the United States. His direct experience of the wonders of the natural world is a major inspiration for his work.
The sculptures might be called found-object sculpture, a passion of Waterman’s. Waterman found all of the parts for his beetles in a scrap yard from a brake caliper company.
“I have always been interested in insects,” he said. “When I saw this enormous pile of scrap metal, [the brake caliper scraps] sort of resembled insect parts.”
From these piles of scrap, Waterman created his magnificent giants.
With our ecosystem being threatened more and more, Waterman sees his sculptures as an attention grabber for a higher mission.
“As environmental issues have come to the floor [my art] has taken on a different meaning as many of these creatures are doomed to disappear largely because of our doing and climate change,” he said.
Waterman hopes those who visit the show can be inspired by the art to take an interest in the insects.
“The interesting thing about the combination is that art can help engage people in a way science can’t,” he said. “Things like beetles are easy to overlook, people go ‘ew beetles, insects.’ But like so much in this world, if you pause for a moment and look closely, they are incredible bits of design.”
Waterman’s interpretation of the beetles, combined with Guth’s micro-photography, takes appreciation of the insects to a new level.
“[His] wonderful focused stacked images of the real thing greatly enlarged, achieve that purpose because instead of it being an artistic interpretation like my work, it is the real deal but big enough for you to appreciate how the different exoskeletal parts fit together,” he said.
The beautiful designs of nature and that of the artist, is only the beginning of what the series is about.
“The Arts and Sciences Encounter Series is designed to directly integrate the disciplines of visual thinking and visual problem solving with the curriculum and core values associated with biology, zoology and other life sciences,” Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said.
This combination is something that sets the CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions Art and Science Encounter Series at the Shafer Art Gallery apart.
“I see the Shafer Art Gallery as sort of a flagship out there,” Waterman said. “There are not many places doing art-science things. Exposing people to the hybrid of how art and science can work together is still a relatively unusual idea. It is fantastic that the gallery is there as a facility and available to people in the area who are curious.”
Visitors will experience programming which directly links the close looking and critical thinking required of both the visual artist and scientist. They will be pressed to see the beauty of the beetle as well as the functionality of its parts.
“Classes from all STEM disciplines are invited to encounter beetles as both natural structures with inherent beauty and as beautiful examples of natural engineering and function,” Barnes said. “Programming involves both age appropriate critical art-making activities combined with discovery opportunities to experience the life, forms and bio-diversity importance of beetles.”
This series is made possible by underwriting from CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions and a grant from The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.
For more information, contact Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes at (620) 792-9342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions Family Day June 23
The Shafer Art Gallery will host a Family Day full of activities including a free puppet show performed by the StoneLion Puppet Theatre and a visit from the Kansas State University Insect Ambassador Zoo. There will also be various bug related crafts throughout the day.