By Mae Kellert
Brandon Ballengée is proving just how powerful a combination science and art can be, with fine art focusing on a world with which he is uniquely familiar – a world of amphibians, fish, birds, and all manner of flora and fauna. Working with photography, sculpture, and “installation art,” he creates work that is curious, beautiful, and openly seeks to engage viewers with nature.
Brandon holds his PH.D in Transdisciplinary Art and Biology from Plymouth University and Zürich University of the Arts and Applied Sciences, and he is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Louisiana State University, with a focus on the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Additionally, his fine art, which directly draws from his ecological research, has gained him a 2015 NYFA Fellowship, several grants, and solo exhibitions and installation opportunities around the world.
Art in particular has a way of reaching the masses – and in environmental activism, any way of engaging the public with themes of ecology wields a pivotal power. Love Motel for Insects, Ballengée’s installation currently on view at 1000 Atlantic Avenue in Camden, is a particularly poignant example of this. This outdoor installation is presented by the Rowan University Art Gallery in partnership with Freedom Prep Charter School and Virtua Camden. Visually arresting, Love Motel for Insects is created out of canvas and emit ultraviolet light in the evening. This special lighting attracts nocturnal arthropods – allowing us to see these beautiful, mysterious creatures up close. This interaction – this showcasing of insects belonging only to the nighttime world – generates interest and, importantly, compassion in its audience. Brandon Ballengée’s installations have been constructed all around the world, allowing countless audiences the opportunity to appreciate a part of their ecosystem that they don’t often see.
In fact, Brandon Ballengée goes further with this in his Eco-Actions project: he offers workshops and field trips to students and the general public, where he encourages a deeper understanding of science and nature. An avid supporter of the concept of “citizen scientists,” Brandon feels that education and engagement is key. As he puts it, “We can’t save organisms that know nothing about.”
State of the Arts featured Sea of Vulnerability, Ballengée’s exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery, in a premiere episode, which can be seen online here. This stunning exhibit includes Collapse, pictured above, which consists of specimens collected from the Gulf of Mexico and meticulously arranged into a striking pyramid of glass jars. While the exhibition ends November 4, you can see the Love Motel for Insects installation in Camden until March 2018. This is truly a great opportunity to share and instill a love for art and science with your family and friends.