Nest Alchemy: Art & Science Intertwined at 3 Dots

– by Ellie Aungst

Deirdre Murphy’s exhibition at 3 Dots explores our connections with and responsibility for birdlife

Join us this Thursday evening (April 13, 5-7pm) at 3 Dots to celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit – Nest Alchemy. The event will include a cocktail reception and a panel discussion of “Seven Simple Actions to Save Birds”, an initiative designed to help make our urban world more hospitable to bird life.

Murphy Headshot

This thought-provoking series was created by Deirdre Murphy, a contemporary visual artist, who explores the intersection of art and science through the lens of natural patterns, data visualization and climate change. Her interest in avian migratory patterns and the effects of climate change have led her research to a variety of residencies, including at Penn State University’s Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

Nest Alchemy displays the connection between birds' nest building and the workings of our own brain cells. Murphy challenges the traditional assumption that nest building is a purely instinctual process by highlighting the learning and memory abilities of birds. Cynthia Haveson Veloric, art historian and independent curator, discusses how Murphy’s paintings celebrate the “engineering marvels” of nest structures and aim to turn them into icons of a disappearing species. Veloric discusses how the vivid and symbolic colors used in her paintings mirror the changing seasons and the impact of climate change: “orange, psychologically associated with positivity, also references global warming; the green speaks of rebirth and spring, the red berries assert themselves visually against the pale teal winter sky”.

“Seven Simple Actions to Save Birds” is an initiative originally developed by researchers at Cornell University, but that has been adopted by various other universities and institutions globally. It aims to share with us how small actions can be done to help birdlife flourish. First, we can make windows safer by installing screens or breaking up reflections to prevent collisions. Second, keep cats indoors or create an outdoor “catio”. Third, reduce lawn and plant native plants. Fourth, avoid using pesticides at home and in the garden. Fifth, drink coffee that is good for birds – namely that which has grown in the shade rather than the sun. Sixth, reduce plastic consumption, especially single-use plastic. Seventh and finally, watch birds and share what you see.

Heart Throb

To discuss this initiative, 3Dots is welcoming a selection of faculty and staff from a variety of Penn State University departments to talk with us about how these small acts can help towards the conservation of birds. The discussion will be moderated by Lindsey Lanfried and Erica Quinn from 3 Dots, and our list of excellent panelists includes Dr. Joe Gyekis (from the Biology department), Chyvonne Jessick (a graduate student who runs Instagram page psu_birdstrike), Shari Edelson (Botanical Gardens Director of Operations), Doug Wentzel (Director of Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center), Laura Jackson (from the Juniata Audubon Society) and Dr. Margaret Brittingham (wildlife biology professor). If you have any questions you’d like to share ahead of time, please drop us an email. We look forward to sharing this fantastic new exhibit with you all very soon.

Venue: 3 Dots, 137 East Beaver Avenue, State College, Pennsylvania

Dates: Discussion & Reception April 13 5-7pm; exhibition on view from April 11 – May 27

3 Dots is an award winning community venue based in Downtown State College. Our mission is to inspire a more vibrant community by elevating the humanities, promoting local arts, cultivating innovative experiences, and offering an inclusive public space for civic engagement. We envision that Central Pennsylvania can become a cultural destination that’s energized by local artists and innovative changemakers. We are passionate about creating an inclusive, inter-generational community for all to enjoy. Located at 137 East Beaver Avenue in State College, 3 Dots is a vibrant downtown space that hosts artistic and innovative experiences, earning Best Community Space each year since its founding in 2019.

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