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Julian Shepherd

An entomologist considers art

By Anika Michel

Harpur College Professor Julian Shepherd gave art fans his perspective on the use of insects in Rimer Cardillo's work at a campus gallery talk on Feb. 7.

"What I really want to get across to you all is my feeling of aesthetic appreciation for these," said Shepherd, an associate professor of biological sciences who specializes in the reproductive physiology of insects.

Julian Shepherd
Julian Shepherd, associate professor of biological sciences.

The exhibit, titled "Quiet Cruelties: Prints, Sculptures, and Unique Works on Paper by Rimer Cardillo," is on display at the University Art Museum until March 23.

"Often people think there is this great division. There is an arts and humanities culture. There is a science culture," Shepherd said. "But I would like to argue that a lot of us who came into science came through an aesthetic appreciation for nature."

In order to demonstrate the use of nature in art, Shepherd presented a number of photo slides. Among the pictures was a 10th century art illustration of a tree, a set of Egyptian jewelry with scarab engravings, and a Bella moth insect.

After the presentation, Shepherd led the viewers on a tour of Cardillo's artwork.

"I don't like to ascribe too much meaning if the artist didn't mean to have meaning," Shepherd said.

The first art pieces included "That's How They End" and "The Punishment."

"What he's evidently done is reproduce a photograph. I would interpret this as punishment- being hung," Shepherd said in reference to one of the pieces.

Another piece that Shepherd provided perspective on was "Polilla de Primavera."

"This would be a grasshopper here. He's putting all of these steel objects, and they're not particularly associated with the insect. They are just around," Shepherd said. "The steel objects are nuts from bolts, which gives an unpleasant look."

One of the audience members asked a question about the industrial image of South America during the time period when the piece was created.

"South America was fairly independent and fairly well-to-do," Shepherd said.

"It wasn't his intention when he photographed these to be final works of art," said Diane Butler, Art Museum director. "They were part of his process to get to other prints. It wasn't until two years ago that he actually decided to print these and represent them on their own."

"He calls these insects 'stage sets,'" Butler said. "So it's left very open to the viewer what you're going to ascribe to that stage set."


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Last Updated: 11/14/16