Nebraska State Museum Opens Art Exhibit Drawing from Science of Bats

The Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall presents an art exhibit drawing from science of bats on view November Nov. 11, through Jan. 31, 2012.

“Origins” is a collection of 10 paintings by University of Nebraska-Lincoln master of fine arts student Audrey Stommes. The series depicts bats in the museum’s Division of Zoology, interweaving postmodern artistic expression with elements of scientific research.

“Bats #1.” By Audrey Stommes, 2011 (copyright Audrey Stommes, 2011).

“Origins” reflects the transitional state of ambiguity between humans and animals.

“I wanted the pieces to explore the idea of humans as animals, and the similarities we have,” said Stommes. “Bats have the same bone structure as humans except for their skull and wings. By painting them slightly off, and making their origins less recognizable, I tried to push the question of ‘What is it?'”

The artwork was created using gouache, graphite and watercolor pencil. Each piece features transparent fog oscillating between the background and the bats floating in jars of alcohol. This fog element, which is actually the fat seeping out of the bats, is the transition between the environment and the cluster of specimens.

Stommes began sketching specimens in the zoology preparation lab in 2010. Over time, her interest in the collections grew into the “Origins” exhibit. According to Stommes, the interdisciplinary collaboration with the museum has stretched her skills as an artist by allowing her to work directly with the researchers and the specimens they archive and preserve every day.

“Working in the zoology collections has been an amazing opportunity,” Stommes said. “With my work, I not only want to enjoy my paintings and get something from the experience — but I also hope to raise awareness of this amazing part of campus that is not commonly known.”

The collaboration has been rewarding for the museum researchers as well.

“Audrey’s art offers a fresh, creative, and respectful interpretation of the scientific research collections from the perspective of fine art,” said collections manager Thomas Labedz. “Her work in zoology has helped us adopt a more artistic eye toward what we see daily in the care and research of museum collections.”

Established in 1871, the University of Nebraska State Museum is celebrating its 140th anniversary with special promotions and educational events throughout the year. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday; 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays; and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sundays. Regular museum admission is $5 for adults (19 and over), $3 for children (5-18 years, 4 and under are free), and $10 for families (up to two adults and children). UNL staff, faculty and students are admitted free with valid NU ID. Museum members are free with current membership card. Parking is free in front of the museum. There is an additional charge for planetarium shows. For more information on the museum’s zoology collections, visit For further information, telephone the museum at 402-472-2642 or visit

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