‘Vernal Pools’: Atrium Art Gallery exhibit showcases the life within spring pools

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LEWISTON — “Vernal Pools,” an all-media visual exploration inspired by the ecology of vernal pools, is showing at the Atrium Art Gallery at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn campus.

Featured through June 30 are paintings, prints and drawings; work in stone, ceramic, metal and mixed media; and audio by 14 artists from around New England.

Two poets, Robert Chute and Elizabeth Tibbetts, have poems in the exhibit.

The Atrium Art Gallery is partnering with Lewiston’s Stanton Bird Club which will help with field trips to vernal pools and exhibit tours for school groups. The club’s junior naturalists, ages 9-11, have created an installation of an imagined vernal pool with sculptural fairy shrimp for the exhibit.

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Vernal pools, also called spring pools, are typically small shallow wetlands that contain water for a few months in the spring and early summer. Because they usually dry up by the end of summer, they are free of fish. In March, these pools burst into life with an amazing variety of creatures: frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, aquatic beetles, dragonflies, mayflies, fairy shrimp, larval forms of insects such as caddisflies and micro-invertebrates such as daphnia and planaria.

In New England, most vernal pools are part of the forested landscape and home to a rich array of plants and animals that thrive in the wet/dry cycle of the vernal pool environment. Vernal pools are now recognized for their ecological importance and as habitat for many endangered species.

The exhibit includes a twin pool installation by Joy Wulke of Stony Creek, Conn. Titled “Reflections … Familiar Yet Not,” the geometric-shaped pools interpret the reflective qualities of light associated with natural vernal pools. Natural and artificial light are filtered through the suspended branches, reflected from the mirror pyramids that appear to float in the pools, and reflected from the surface of the water.

Wulke is a nationally recognized sculptor whose work bridges the boundary between visual art and architecture. Since receiving a master’s degree in environmental design from Yale in 1974, she has had numerous solo exhibitions and has participated in group exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Robin Brickman of Williamstown, Mass., has four sculptural watercolors in the exhibition. Leaves, salamanders and their eggs, frogs, rain drops, snow and ice are all created and constructed entirely of paper, paint and glue. Brickman is an award-winning illustrator with many books focusing on natural history topics. She recently completed a residency at Park Avenue Elementary through L/A Arts.

Other artists in the exhibition are Holly Berry of Waldoboro; Thomas Berger, Kittery; Robert D. Bryson, Steuben; Patricia Cassady, Middleboro, Mass.; Tim Christensen, Roque Bluffs; J. Ann Eldridge, Bradford, N.H.; Maggie Foskett, Camden; Rebecca Goodale, Portland; Kristin Malin, Georgetown; Gina Mikel, Kirkwood, Mo.; Barbara Putnam, Southborough, Mass.; and Adelaide Tyrol, Plainfield, Vt.

The Atrium Art Gallery, open to the public free of charge, is at 51 Westminster St. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 1 and 8. For more information, call 753-6500 or visit www.usm.maine.edu/lac/art.

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