Monday, August 13, 2012

Kevin Chamberlain’s exhibit, “Insects: A Collection in Multiple Dimensions” was personally rewarding for the artist, thanks to University of Iowa entomologists from a century ago and a group of today’s talented preschool students. 

Chamberlain, a third-year MFA candidate in ceramics at the University of Iowa, used digital photographs and three-dimensional artistic renderings of specimens from the UI Museum of Natural History’s 100-year-old insect collection in the exhibit. He also employed 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping, plaster molds, ceramics, and mixed media sculptures. 

The exhibit was on display in the UI Pentacrest Museums Gallery for the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences at the Old Capitol Museum from May through July 2012. 

Using an image stacking technique, Chamberlain took 10 photographs of each actual insect and created a final composite using only the sharpest portions of each image. Most of these photographs were displayed next to the actual insect from the collection. 

“When we put the insect specimens next to the large prints for the first time, it was exciting to see the actual scale relationship of what I was doing,” Chamberlain says. 

As a 2012 fellow in the Obermann Center’s Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy, Chamberlain designed this exhibit to combine public engagement with science, technology, and art. As part of the project, Chamberlain created 34 three-dimensional large scale models of beetles and invited preschool children at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City to paint their own creation. The painted models were included in the exhibit. 

“My work is very controlled, so it was nice to step back and watch the kids take control of the piece,” Chamberlain says. “My favorite part of the project was the kids’ excitement about what they created. With all of our work together, I had a sense of accomplishment and am very proud of the overall feeling that the show expresses.” 

Chamberlain assisted the preschoolers at the Preucil School of Music for two days on their projects.  

“What is great about the University is there are so many experts in their fields. It’s great to introduce that to the kids,” says Kirsten Williamson, a preschool teacher at Preucil. “(The experts) are role models for them. The kids are getting to that age where they can start thinking about what they can do when they grow up. 

“It’s so great that Kevin valued them as artists. He talked to them like they were valuable artists.”