World famous painter holds campus events


Photo by Lindsey Eaton: World famous artist Alexis Rockman shows NMU biology and art students how to make “field drawings,” a method similar to watercolor painting that he invented that mixes natural elements, like soil, with glue to be used as the drawing material, during an Art Scramble workshop at Presque Isle Pavilion on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Noah Hausmann

Alexis Rockman, one of the most famous painters in contemporary American art, visited NMU from Oct. 18 to 20 for many campus and community events, combining art and science.

This New York City artist is known for his environmental advocacy, using a realistic and sardonic painting style. His massive murals, exhibited at the Smithsonian and other galleries, depict climate change, extinction, pollution and invasive species.

The centerpiece of Rockman’s visit was “The Great Lakes Cycle,” murals from which are on display at the DeVos Art Museum until Oct. 30. The work examines the past, present and possible future of the Great Lakes under human influence, based on Rockman’s extensive research with environmental experts.

“I wanted to dig into the dark ecological history of the Great Lakes,” Rockman explained.

The exhibit also includes his “field drawings” of wildlife, made using glue mixed with sand and coal taken directly from the Great Lakes nature around him.

“You can do this anywhere,” Rockman said on why he does the drawings. “It gets me out of the studio. I’m like a heroin addict: I sit in my studio and make art unless there’s some excuse to get out.”

Rockman taught both biology and art and design students to make their own field drawings during an art workshop. He told the students to “have a sense of humor and have fun.” The students’ drawings, sun prints and fish prints are on display in the Olson Library until Oct. 31.

“It was amazing how well art and science blended together to make the workshop unique,” junior microbiology major Heather Swinney said. “[Rockman] was really funny, totally what I was expecting based on his art, kind of salty, but interesting to talk to and passionate about his work.”

Rockman spoke at a public screening of the movie “Life of Pi,” explaining his contributions to the film’s development, as well at an Artist Talk forum about his career and artwork and at the Northern Climate Network Panel Discussion to discuss environmental impact, in addition to other events.