Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Art grows in Arctic Health Research Building

Kimberley Maher moistens the sprouts on ceramic figures
A project blending art and science is sprouting at UAF this spring. SNRAS Doctoral Candidate Kimberley Maher worked with Heidi Morel, a fine arts graduate student, to create voluptuous ceramic female forms with seeds planted on them.

The unique statues are on display in the Biosciences Library in the Arctic Health Building and in the lobby of Irving I. Maher gives Morel credit for the idea. The two students already knew each other because Maher has taken several ceramics classes. They based their work on using the female form as a symbol of fertility and bringing forth new life. “This is the time of year daylight returns and so Fairbanks is beginning to rejuvenate after a long winter,” Maher said. She wanted to capture the essence of spring while snow was still on the ground.

The figures are seeded with Chia, alyssum, lobelia, Polish canola, and yellow mustard. “Because seeds are sprouting and the plants are growing, the pieces are dynamic and change each day,” Maher said. She sprinkles each figure daily to keep the sprouts moist.

She became involved in the project because she sees quite a bit of overlap between art and science. “Working on this project required conducting background research in materials and methods, logistics, planning, following a time line, and the ability to revise all these things in order to address unforeseen circumstances, things that we do when planning and carrying out a field season,” Maher said.

In her PhD program, Maher is conducting an integrated and interdisciplinary project to examine non-timber forest products in interior Alaska. Her study involves harvest traditions, ecological controls, and management implications. She has focused on food products, including their cultural and community-building aspects, and important access and valuation issues that will secure these resources on a sustainable basis. Her project addresses the ecology of production, and the history, potentials, and problems of birch sap along with other non-timber forest products. Her advisor is Professor Glenn Juday.

The displays have garnered quite a bit of interest from passersby. “I’ve had really great response,” Maher said. “People are interested to see something new.” The figures will come down soon as Maher will be starting her summer position with the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The project was funded by the College of Liberal Arts Center for the Arts. The students received advice and assistance from Da-ka-xeen Mehner, assistant professor of Native arts, and Professor Pat Holloway.

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