Four months ago, David Orr walked out of his front door and stopped to appreciate the nature around him.
Twenty feet from his front door he witnessed a daddy long-legs spider and a hornet fighting over a dead earthworm. This natural drama in his own backyard inspired him to create his piece, “Subtle Frontiers,” which delves into research of plants and animals found in his backyard and people’s experience of the nature around them, he said.
The Grunwald Gallery of Art opened its MFA and BFA Thesis Exhibition to the public this Tuesday, which features artwork from students graduating with either their bachelor’s or master’s degree in Fine Arts in December.
Orr is the only master’s student to graduate this December and one of 19 artists to display his work in the gallery. The other 18 artists are undergraduate students.
He said he always knew he wanted to do something about nature and started with the idea of choosing multiple spots and exploring the old growth of Indiana’s forests.
After walking around in his yard, he decided to instead focus on the nature close to home.
“My piece shows how fascinating nature is if you shift your perspective,” Orr said. “We have incredible diversity of insects and birds in Indiana.”
Orr received a bachelor’s degree in fiction writing from Columbia College in Chicago but dabbled in graphic design projects for years.
After graduating, he got a desk job for a publishing company in Bloomington and after working there for a while, decided to go back to school to earn his master’s degree in graphic design.
The Thesis Exhibition is a graduation requirement every semester for students in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. December graduates show their art in one exhibition and spring graduates have six different opportunities starting after spring break.
Each student brings in the pieces they have selected and sets them up in the gallery themselves. This often requires students to build pedestals and plan their space for their artwork.
“When they get out of school and want to have a show somewhere, they will have to learn to make decisions on their own and plan their space,” Betsy Stirratt, director of the gallery, said. “You have to learn to negotiate or change your plans a little bit based on what the realities are.”
The Thesis Exhibition displays a wide range of art forms including photography, jewelry-making and smithing, figurative sculpture, painting, digital media and more.
“I always think there’s something unusual to see,” Stirratt said. “People can see a big range of what’s being made in art today by people their age.”
Orr’s piece is almost entirely digital. He created an interactive website that provides an interface for viewers to explore his backyard by clicking on his own illustrations.
With each click on the website, the viewer is taken to pages designed by Orr and shown research about each animal or plant in his backyard.
Each graphic was designed by Orr on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and took about four to eight hours to complete.
To enhance the website for a gallery setting, Orr created a series of about eight banners, which depict scenes of nature with scientific graphs and figures in the background.
“I wanted it to be visible globally and to mix the data I used in my research with my own illustrations,” Orr said.
The Thesis Exhibition will be on display until Dec. 14, and Orr will lead a discussion of his piece at noon Friday.
“There’s a ton of good work here,” Orr said. “There’s really something for everyone.”
Follow reporter Alison Graham on Twitter @AlisonGraham218.
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