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From Bugs to the Bizarre

September 26, 2012


Whether he is illustrating the minute details of local and exotic insects or creating personal works through global collaborations, Joe Macgown is driven to do one thing: create.

Macgown will showcase his work beginning Friday as a part of the 2012-2013 Harrison Lecture Series and Gallery Exhibitions in the Giles Architecture Building Gallery, and will be on display until Oct. 17.

Macgown, a research technician and scientific illustrator for the Mississippi Entomology Museum, said his creativity and interest in both his personal passion and professional job began at a young age.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I had this need to draw or paint and do something creative,” he said. “And I’ve always been interested in insects.”

Macgown said he is currently researching native and exotic ants around the Southeast and said selections for his exhibit will feature both personal creations and job-related illustrations.

“Because I’ve done a number of illustrations at work over the years, they thought it would be nice to have some scientific illustrations in the show,” he said. “There’s a bridge between the science and my unusual art and the two very much influence each other.”

When describing his art and process, Macgown said he employs a stream of conscience approach to his work.

“It’s super detailed and chaotic,” he said. “I call it subconscious meandering because I let whatever is in my mind flow onto the paper.”

Macgown said while he has used his signature tool of felt pens for years, he has recently started to explore different mediums with his works.

“I’ve done a lot of detailed pen drawings, but over the last few years I’ve done some mix-media combinations,” he said. “I’m exploring adding pen detail to color images with the use of paints and watercolors, and I’ve been enjoying that a lot.”

Macgown said his attention to detail is important in his art and notes its correlation to his fascination with nature.

“I have the need to have a lot of detail and that probably comes from studying things under a microscope and seeing the complexity of life up close and magnified,” he said. “I look at things that same way with my art, but the scientific illustrations have to be accurate and realistic, but the other stuff doesn’t have to be and I really don’t want it be. It’s nice to see that difference.”

Macgown said he has worked on blind collaborations with artists throughout the world where one artist will create one half of a work, cover the drawing with black paper and leave only one inch visible from which the partnering artist completes the work.

“I did one collaborative drawing with art professor Soon Ee Ngoh for an artist incentive program that focused on ants which was nice because it came from an artistic and scientific perspective,” he said. “She’s an amazing artist and it was a great opportunity.”

Macgown said he encourages young artists to work with like-minded people and learn from their work while maintaing a sense of personal confidence about the art they are creating.

“Surround yourself with people who do great art and work with them to understand how they did it,” he said. “Don’t let yourself think you can’t do something. Push for excellence and enjoy the process.”

Macgown’s exhibit opens Friday in the Giles Architecture Building Gallery, and an artist reception is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m.

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