By Sean Callahan
“To underscore the interminable interplay between visual representation and biological research,” reads an excerpt of the introduction and purpose of the Flora and Fauna exhibition, currently on display at the Verostko Center for the Arts. The exhibits vary from a massive book titled “General Natural History for All Species,” which includes illustrations of larval stages and nesting habits of insects, to sketches and colorful paintings of plants and wildlife.
Andrew Julo, curator of the Saint Vincent Art & Heritage Collection, explained that the concept of Flora and Fauna originated from a desire to feature intersecting disciplines, such as art, biology, ecology and natural science. The decision to go ahead with the exhibit came after the gallery was relocated to the library from the third floor of the Carey Center.
“This was a good way for us to show the link between the rare book collection and art collections. We could use more things that had been amassed here, even before artwork was being collected on campus,” Julo said.
He referenced the years since Saint Vincent’s founding in 1846, during which the school acquired more than 4,000 art works of cultural and historic significance. The gallery aims to feature both rotating and permanent collection exhibitions, as it has for the last 60 years, according to the Verostko Center for the Arts website.
But Julo also added that focusing on Saint Vincent exhibitions was partially a decision made because of the pandemic. Non-Saint Vincent faculty, students and outside artists are not allowed in the gallery at this time.
“A lot of museums and galleries are relying on their permanent collections. So rather than bringing in an artist from Pittsburgh, we’re using some of our objects to tell new stories,” Julo said. “For example, later this semester, we’re hosting an exhibition about different interpretations of Stations of the Cross.”
Julo clarified that this is far from the first time Saint Vincent has hosted exhibits of its own collections in the gallery. He pointed, once more, to the monks’ commitment to collect art since the college’s founding. Additionally, he referred to a permanent exhibition in the gallery: a room full of paintings from the college’s art collection.
One section of Flora and Fauna features sketches of animals, including a wolf and a buck. They are listed as having come from the Saint Vincent Drawing School, in the mid-19th century. According to the exhibit’s introduction, the school’s first academic catalogue even listed Fr. Luke Wimmer and Br. Cosmos Wolf as instructors for The Art of Drawing.
The existence for the sketches, according to Julo, can be in part attributed to some of the art first received by the college in the mid-19th century.
“Our students continue to use prints and drawings that were collected in Europe as aids for drawing, sketching and copying,” he said.
Exhibit selections for Flora and Fauna were made by Julo, Dr. James Kellam, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Michelle Duennes, assistant professor of biology. It is available for viewing from Feb. 11 to Mar. 12 in the Verostko Center for the Arts at the Dale P. Latimer Library.