By Jantzen Teague
The Department of Art & Design is hosting a display titled “Leaves and Trees” in the Stevens Art Gallery through Jan. 29 to showcase nature-inspired artwork created by the department’s faculty.
Featuring paintings, drawings, photographs and a variety of styles from six current faculty members and three alumni, “Leaves and Trees” takes its viewers on a walk through nature. The exhibit coincided with a recent National Geographic article that discussed the relationship between health and nature.
“Most of us know that we feel good when we go outside — a walk in the woods, sitting by a bubbling brook,” gallery coordinator and professor of art Dr. John Keller said. “But it is actually established through research that you’re going to be a healthier, happier person if you spend time in nature.”
According to National Geographic’s research, spending time in nature can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. Keller said the exhibit had already been planned when he ran across the National Geographic article and that the connection was simply a happy coincidence.
“We’re used to talking about the health factor in foods, vitamins and exercise — those are the biggies,” Keller said. “But how often do we think seriously about the health benefits of just getting out where you’re immersed in nature?”
Assistant professor of art Beverly Austin expressed similar thoughts about the health benefits, giving credit to God for the beauty of nature and its side effects.
“Think about this,” Austin said. “God made a beautiful sunset, but if you didn’t have the capacity to appreciate the beauty, then it would just be red, yellow and orange in the sky and you’d just go on about your life.”
According to Austin, one should thank God each time something beautiful is seen. She said that each person is equipped to pursue some creative endeavor and that she hopes God is interested in how we choose to use our talents.
“Art can be a sermon…,” Austin said. “It can have subject matter that causes people to think about themselves, about their life, about their future, why they’re here.”
Keller promoted the crux of the subject matter as well. According to Keller, most artists would not think of the “Leaves and Trees” exhibit as a “content-driven show.”
“Well, my argument would be that nature and presenting nature — maybe in ways that the viewer hasn’t seen it — is very strong content,” Keller said. “It’s about the beauty of nature: God’s creations.”
Professor of art Dr. Faye Doran, like Keller and Austin, contributed at least 10 pieces of artwork to the exhibit. In collaboration with her husband, retired biology professor and botanist Don Doran, Dr. Faye Doran often paints what she or her husband has photographed. Dr. Faye Doran said the connection between health and nature allows our spirits to rest.
“I think then our whole body feels better if we have those periods of rest,” Dr. Faye Doran said.
With more than 50 pieces covering the two galleries on the first floor of the Stevens Art building, “Leaves and Trees” paints the picture of the beauty of nature and its health benefits.
“I always thought if you lived among the trees, you ended up with a lot of allergies,” Austin said. “Or if you live among the pine trees, you got a lot of ticks.”