Hidden Artistic Talents of Islander Faculty/Staff Showcased at Bell Library Exhibit

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – From professor to Pablo Picasso, from librarian to Leonardo da Vinci; the often unseen artistic talents of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi faculty and staff are on full display at the 3rd annual Islander Faculty and Staff Art Exhibition. The exhibition, hosted by the Mary and Jeff Bell Library, invites all employees, no matter their trade or discipline, to showcase passions beyond their assigned duties. About 30 faculty and staff contributed pieces ranging from ceramics to quilting, paintings, poetry, drawings, crochet, screen prints, digital photography, and even an artistic display of sound using a fan and windchime.

An opening reception for Islander Faculty and Staff Art Exhibition was held May 17 which invited participating University employees to further showcase their art to family, friends and colleagues. Jennifer Anderson, Bell Library marketing and user engagement librarian, not only organized the show, but submitted a quilt, which she designed in the pattern of a carpenter star.

“My mother was an ‘artistic’ quilter,” said Anderson. “She used to work in a quilt store and was a fiber artist, creating embroidery and vestments for use at church. I consider myself more of a ‘functional’ quilter. On any given day, you’ll find my quilts in my car’s trunk, ready to be used for a picnic, or wrapped around student workers trying to keep warm in our library.”

Trent Thigpen, who works as program manager for the Pollution Prevention Partnership and AutoCheck program within the Office of Community Outreach, also submitted a piece to the show. He crafted “Big Bang” out of dead fire ants, which he harvested – while they were alive – from a ranch near Victoria. The piece includes approximately 50,000 ants which were arranged in a scene from nature, including scorpions, dragonflies, fish and other underwater animals. Thigpen, who is in the Master of Fine Arts program at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, says using ants as an art medium has many deep personal layers of meaning.

“I was 5 years old when the pain of a fire ant attack shocked my young body and mind into an acute awareness of my physical place in the world,” said Thigpen. “Also, during the many hours of individually placing dead fire ants in my artwork, I have found a reverence for and understanding of the lives I harvested. I have experienced an awareness of the flowing systems in which we all share and try to thrive within.”

Susan Greathouse, clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, displayed extraordinary talent with two paintings on porcelain – one called “Gathering Place,” depicting a mythical mermaid surrounded by sea life, and the other, “Tropical Splendor,” a trio of colorful birds painted onto a gold and enamel embellished vase.

“I don’t think being a nurse and being an artist are very different as both require creative solutions for life’s problems and challenges,” said Greathouse. “Art is a great way to work toward achieving balance. As educators, we give so much of ourselves, and art is wonderful because of its restorative nature.”

Edward Warga, reference and scholarly communication librarian at the Bell Library, submitted a piece called “Room Fan’s First Recital,” which included a hanging windchime being blown by a small oscillating fan. He gained inspiration for this “assemblage art” after reading an art book about visual puns.

“Assemblage art is the arrangement of found objects to create an artwork. It's like three-dimensional collage,” said Warga. “I identify more with outsider art than traditional fine arts. I’m also a musician. So, when I was getting the work ready for the show, I thought about how nerve-wracking a first recital can be and incorporated this in the work.”

The show will be on display on the first floor of Bell Library until Thursday, June 28, and is free and open during the library’s regular business hours.

“As employees of this hustling and bustling institution, we don’t often slow down to think of our colleagues in terms past their job titles,” said Anderson. “This exhibit proves that you should always expect the unexpected from the energetic and passionate people that work at the Island University.”