New art exhibition celebrates biodiversity, nature


First place piece “Hügelland” by Susan Krieb on display in the Biology Building’s Atrium on April 28. (Jayden Hayn/The News)

Raleigh Hightower, Lifestyle Editor

In a first-of-its-kind art exhibition, contributors across several different majors used art to explore biodiversity.

The 2023 Biodiversity Art Exhibition was organized by Professor of Plant Ecology Kate He.

He, who has been working at Murray State for 23 years, decided to host this exhibit after her own experiences exhibiting photography locally and because of the region’s recent history with extreme weather.

“By participating in a few exhibitions, I realized that very few exhibitions are nature or biodiversity focused,” He said. “Given the fact that multiple extreme weather events have happened in the region, having healthy ecosystems around us has become even more crucial.”

She also hosted the exhibition in hopes it would encourage collaboration between scientists and artists.

This year is the first year the Biodiversity Art Exhibition has been hosted, and He says the time around Earth Day was the perfect time for the exhibition to come to campus.

“We celebrate Earth Day each spring with multiple events on campus,” He said. “I thought a biodiversity art exhibit would be a good way to celebrate Earth, to promote regional biodiversity and to bring artists and scientists together on campus and in the local community.”

The exhibition was juried by a panel of four judges. The judges included He, Professor of Evolutionary Biology Howard Whiteman, Assistant Professor of Art and Design Cintia Segovia Figueroa and Executive Director of the Murray Art Guild Debi Danielson.

The judges evaluated submissions based on a set of general criteria that included, among other things, originality, creativity, visual design, aesthetic appeal and adherence to the theme.

The exhibit, which received 64 submissions, was narrowed down to 32 exhibited works. Of the 32 works, the panel of judges selected a “Best of Show” piece, first place, second place, third place and an honorable mention.

The winners of this year’s exhibit were also given monetary prizes with their awards, thanks to the funding provided by the Watershed Studies Institute and the Department of Biological Sciences.

Senior studio art major Laurie Snellen was awarded Best in Show for her piece titled “A Glitch in Biodiversity: Meadowlark.” Snellen’s piece, which depicts a Meadowlark bird, aims to highlight the intricacies of the biodiversity crisis through the lens of birds, a group of animals that are especially sensitive to climate change.

“I am very invested in biodiversity, as I believe it is an aspect of the climate and environmental crisis that is overlooked too often,” Snellen said. “It is my goal to spread awareness so more people can learn to do their part to help the environment.”

The first place award went to Susan Krieb, an administrative specialist in Teacher Education Services at the College of Education and Human Services. Krieb’s piece, a fabric landscape titled “Hügelland,” depicts a series of rolling hills, each of which contains a different crop.

Krieb said one of the best things about her experience with the exhibit was the way it made biology and biodiversity more accessible.

“By displaying the beauty of biology through artwork, even those not familiar with biology or biodiversity are able to have a visual connection to it,” Krieb said. “Hopefully, through collaborations like this, we can learn to appreciate and understand the beauty and complexity of nature, and in turn, take better care of it.”

The second place submission went to senior wildlife biology and conservation major Dawson Gray. Gray’s piece was a photograph titled “Chorus Frog in Leaves.”

Gray’s photo depicted a chorus frog in a Murray State lab this semester. Gray also submitted two other photos to the exhibit, which depicted a mockingbird and a smothered dagger moth.

The exhibit also recognized a third place winner, Patty Hughes, and an honorable mention, Paul Grumley.

He hopes to expand the event next year and include more artists from around the region.