The 2022 Harvard Staff Art Show showcases the talent of the HBS community. Valentina Bulava reports.
As I was looking through the 2022 Harvard Staff Art Show galleries, filled with outstanding works, I could not help but admire what I would like to call the art of capturing small moments.
Organized and curated by volunteers and a steering committee, the Harvard Staff Art Show (HSAS) is the annual event which showcases Harvard University staff creative works through both in-person and online exhibitions. The goal of HSAS is to celebrate talents and enhance the sense of community and belonging among Harvard members. As the mission statement says, “[In] an effort to remain connected during this unprecedented time in Harvard history, we want to establish a space where staff can share their creative endeavors with each other and with the University-wide community.” I have to say that I absolutely love this idea.
I did not miss a chance to connect with Lindsay Blevins and Andrew MacKenzie, whose works fit so well with the title of this article. More precisely, I started to think more about this topic after seeing their photographs.
We live in a fast-paced world, where missing tiny things and small joys has become an inevitable part of our lives. Art is one of those areas where many of us are missing out because of time restrictions, work commitments and so on. Arthur Brooks’ article in the previous issue of the Harbus (Feb 2022) covers this topic in more depth.
How often can you imagine yourself walking in a forest and finding a tiny frog resting in a mushroom? Lindsay Blevins, staff member at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, went through exactly this experience.
Blevins is a mixed media illustrator, fungal photographer and mycology enthusiast. I would say this is one of those cases where different hobbies get a perfect balance and energize each other. Blevins also tells me that photography work informs her illustrations and vice versa.
Inspired by the natural world, vintage ephemera, and children’s picture books, Blevins explores the outside and manages to capture her explorations in the most beautiful ways.
From high school Blevins was drawn to both photography and illustrations. She watched her mom taking a lot of pictures and started to experiment with it herself, paying specific attention to exploring perspectives. Nature is a subject of her illustrations as well, and it remains a favorite subject in photography.
I find it amusing how capturing the moment can be spontaneous, like with the frog, whereas in other cases it can require a huge amount of patience, search, and time. For example, I cannot imagine how long it took for Andrew MacKenzie from Harvard University Information Technology department to get his magnificent images of lightning in the night sky above Peabody City Hall.
MacKenzie, whose other work includes landscape and architecture photography from his travels, agrees that “capturing a moment in time” drives his photography. In fact, he started shooting lightning eight years ago. “Initially it was a curiosity, but I soon found myself awake at 2AM during a lightning storm with my camera trying to capture that ‘one amazing photo.’ Freezing in time such an amazing event that lasts milliseconds is a powerful thing that lets us see the world ‘as it is’ in a way we ordinarily can’t.”
He tells me that he got into this form of visual art as a way of ‘simply capturing the world as it is, freezing a moment in time.’ With time, he learned a lot through the process and now aims to capture more “depth” than simply a “pretty picture.” MacKenzie believes that it is important to also evoke an emotional response to a scene.
I am sure Blevins would agree. In my view, it is marvelous how she could manage to take a frog picture (with just her phone, by the way) and not scare the little friend away. Seeing the photo, I can feel the excitement Blevins shares with us, the tenderness and vulnerability of our nature. I am yet to see more of Blevins’ work, but can already say her high school experiments with perspective were not in vain.
Blevins shares that she does, indeed, search for beautiful things to capture. While finding the right balance between her hobbies and passion, she casually enjoys the walks, paying attention to her surroundings. Summer is a prime time to be out for her, visit the woods, look for specimens to study and photograph. The “frog in a trumpet” moment was one of the unexpected. “That particular moment I was looking for black trumpets, and I went to grab this one and I saw the tiny frog in it.” What a wonderful surprise!
Wouldn’t you agree that it is small moments that make up the whole picture of happiness?
The moon, the stars, the calmness of the sea, and power of the sky, a bird about to flee, and the mountains in their eternal motionlessness—the Harvard Staff Art Show website shares many more examples of how artists and photographers see small moments around them.
And to finish up, I would like to return to Brooks’ article, and quote “If you make time for consuming and producing art—the same way you make time for work and exercise and family—you’ll find your life getting fuller and happier.”
If you wish to see some of the works in-person, here is the list of the current and upcoming shows:
- Memorial Church, February 7 – April 1, 2022, HUID access required
- Harvard Ed Portal Crossing Gallery, March 10 – April 1, 2022, open to the public
- Smith Campus Center Arts Wing, March 21 – April 5, 2022, HUID access required
Valentina Bulava is an EC partner at HBS. She has a background in journalism and publishing, and now works as a Digital Marketing Specialist, dedicating free time to creative writing.