Allison McElroy, Associate Professor of Art, currently teaches oil painting and figure drawing at JSU, and she looks forward to teaching an “Art and Science Observation” class next summer. Though she loves having the opportunity to work with students, she never originally planned on becoming an associate professor.
“I went to college to become a famous artist and learn to use as many different mediums as I could,” McElroy stated.
She specifically desired to study oil paints, sculpture, welding, photography, and drawing. However, her hopes went beyond mastering various forms of art.
“I also wanted to meet as many different people as I could…to explore new
experiences and to learn about life in general,” she explained.
Fortunately, the position she ended up with has allowed many of these dreams to come true. McElroy recently had the opportunity to participate in an art immersion program called Labverde. Labverde offers artists the chance to experience the Amazon Rainforest. It highlights “the connection between science, art, and the natural environment” for its participants.
McElroy completed her application before the summer of 2018, hoping to take part in the Labverde residency. Along with her application, she submitted an artistic project proposal. Out of a pool of 230 artists, McElroy was one of the 18 artists selected to attend the program. She considers this a great honor.
Half of McElroy’s August was spent in Manaus, Brazil, at the Adolpho Ducke
Reserve, a place with “amazingly fresh (food) and beautiful colors.” Besides the obvious cultural and climatic differences that she encountered, she was also able to expose her senses to the wildly different natural world.
“The sound of the bugs and birds was deafening in a lovely way,” she described.
Her home for those two weeks was surrounded by plant life; she traded office walls for “green growing on green on green.” For McElroy, being in the Amazon was an awe-inspiring occasion. She painted a beautiful image: “Walking into the forest was like being inhaled by the earth. It was fascinating and lovely.”
It goes without saying that her trip included more than breathtaking walks through the Amazon. She also attended scientific lectures on historical ecology, biodiversity, entomology, and global warming. She was able to take notes, draw a collection of sketches, and create three earthworks. Earthworks, she explained, are “artworks in nature.” As described on Labverde’s website, McElroy used various mediums to explore the natural processes and materials that “makeup and fulfill human life.”
She says that there was no single moment in the Amazon that deserves to be
called the most incredible; all parts of her trip were uniquely amazing. However, being in the water with (and petting) pink dolphins—the only freshwater dolphins in existence—was definitely one of many highlights.
“I swam in the Rio Negro at sunset; I learned Brazilian dance; I learned about fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in Amazonia,” she exclaimed. It was a trip unlike any other, and one that won’t be forgotten.
Now back in Jacksonville, McElroy has returned to her favorite adventures:
hiking, cycling, swimming, and enjoying the outdoors. Yet she knows that her trip to the Amazon will impact her future as an Associate Professor and as an artist.
“I am adding environmental awareness to my projects as well as globalization…it will be interesting to weave [this experience] into the classroom as well as my own artwork,” she stated.
In any case, Ms. McElroy can proudly say that she has approached her original goal of “exploring new experiences” in a way that has kept her
curiosity healthy and her art authentic.