Science + Art = Fun, educational experience for all
It’s not every day that science and art merge to create a fun, educational experience for children and adults alike. But Holland Hall’s ARTworks program offers an opportunity for everyone to explore an insect-themed art exhibition that will have visitors crawling with amazement.
The ARTworks Holliman Gallery Exhibit features human-sized photographs of insects taken by acclaimed photographer Bob Sober. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to view Sober’s unique photographs showcasing the unseen beauty of the insect world, while seeing some of the actual insects displayed alongside their photographic portraits.
“The insect is a mosaic of color, texture and pattern,” Sober said. “It is a testament to the beauty of nature.”
Sober spent a week last month at Holland Hall as the school’s annual ARTworks artist-in-residence. During his residency, Sober collaborated with science teachers, leading students on exploratory hikes on the 160-acre campus, located in south Tulsa, to teach them about insects and how to photograph nature.
“Insects may be the perfect marriage of science and art,” Sober said, who uses a technique called macrophotography to create extremely intricate images of bugs that oftentimes are mistaken as paintings. “Not only are they beautiful, they are an engineering marvel. Imagine for a minute, if you attached functioning wings to your refrigeration, could it fly? That description fits a dung beetle in flight. How can this small creature that resembles a tank actually fly?”
For the ARTworks exhibition, Sober decided to concentrate on just one order of insects – beetles (Coleoptera) – to showcase the vast number of beetles we live with every day. The display features about 100 images of beetles, organized by family, as well as several murals of male beetles fighting to defend their territory or to win the heart of a beautiful female beetle.
“While they fight in earnest, neither beetle is hurt,” Sober said. “It is more like playing ‘king of the mountain.’ The winner is the one left standing on the stump or branch where the fight occurred. I hope this brings some fun to the exhibition while providing a little insight into the life of a beetle.”
Holland Hall students are getting the opportunity to learn this and many other fascinating facts about beetles in their biology classes this fall. Keri Shingleton, biology teacher at Holland Hall’s upper school, is taking full advantage of Sober’s unique gallery to further engage her students in the study of these tiny creatures.
“Beetles are an amazing group to inspire awe and wonder, since they come in so many different shapes and colors and sizes, and they play many different ecological roles in Earth’s ecosystems,” Shingleton said.
Biology students have been researching specific beetles that Sober previously had photographed, and will share their findings, along with the photographs, on their personal websites, Shingleton said. As many of the beetles are not from the United States, this is an excellent way to learn about beetle diversity worldwide, as anyone can view the students’ blogs and ask questions.
For families interested in finding their own beetles to study in nature, Shingleton said, “Leaf litter and rotting logs in the forest are great places to find them. Ground beetles are also easy to catch in simple pitfall traps. It is most fun for children to watch live beetles in their habitat or in a small container for a short time, after which they can be returned to the wild.”
However, like animals and birds, insects too run the risk of becoming extinct, so Shingleton cautions parents to be on the lookout for the American Burying Beetle and to “please let it be” if they find one, as it is among the species of endangered beetle in our area.
The ARTworks Holliman Gallery Exhibit is free and open to the public on weekdays through Nov. 20 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Holland Hall, 5666 E. 81st St. For more information, visit www.hollandhall.org/events/artworks/.