The Stubblefields
Michael and Elyn Stubblefield on the archipelago of Svalbard in arctic, Norway. (Photo courtesy of Michael Stubblefield)

Michael Stubblefield’s exhibition teaches guests about the world of natural bird art

Nov 5, 2020
Kathryne Davis

Michael Stubblefield with camera in outrigger canoe.The Brenau community learned about the relationship between art and science thanks to “The Evolution of Scientific Bird Art with Dr. Michael Stubblefield,” held virtually on Monday, Oct. 26.

Stubblefield, an avid nature photographer and art collector, presented some images from his art collection depicting the natural world and, more specifically, birds. Originally scheduled to be an exhibition held in Sellars Gallery of the Simmons Visual Arts Center, the presentation shifted to a virtual format due to COVID-19. It is expected the show in its original form will be hosted on the Brenau campus in the fall of 2021.

“Doing things like this presentation,” Stubblefield said, “sharing my love of this and why I get totally nerded out on photography, birds and art collecting, and the fact that a couple of people are willing to show up and hear me out and spend an hour with me is really just wonderful.”

Brenau’s Permanent Art Collection via the Arader Natural History Art Fund has been able to grow due to Stubblefield and his wife, Elyn, who provided funding for the purchase of numerous botanical prints. In late 2018, Brenau started the Arader Arts and Science Collaborative as a way to “enhance the bridge between artistic creativity and scientific exploration by providing students with access to a variety of natural history print,” said Didi Cassell, Arader curriculum faculty coordinator and instructor in the Department of Math and Science.

“Here at Brenau, we are excited to share the history and impact of these pieces with our students,” Cassell said. “For us, this program is not about creating another task for our students to complete mindlessly, but rather it’s about providing our students with a meaningful connection between scientific study and artistic excellence. We’ve sought to integrate these works into courses where the themes can be readily tied together across disciplines.”

Stubblefield’s natural history images and articles have appeared in hundreds of publications all over the world, and he has won several awards for his photography and writing. The Stubblefields have a collection of well over 100,000 images that include hundreds of species of birds as well as mammals and fish.

While not an art historian, Stubblefield said he gained much of his art knowledge by collecting and reading. During his presentation, Stubblefield showed art from as early as the 1700s, when artists had very limited knowledge of birds and the natural world, to present times. As part of the talk, he gave historical background on the pieces as well as the artists who created them.

In addition to photography and writing, Stubblefield is a medical director of cancer rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey, and the national medical director for Select Medical’s ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation Program in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He earned his bachelor’s in biology and philosophy from Brown University and his degree in medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Stubblefield is also triple board certified in the fields of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as the editor of “Cancer Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice,” the only comprehensive textbook on cancer rehabilitation.

Nichole Ferguson, Brenau Galleries director, had high praise for the Stubblefields.

“I had the great joy to spend some time with the Stubblefields when I visited New York several years ago on Arader Art Initiative business,” she said. “And I have to add to all of the professional accolades that Dr. Michael Stubblefield and his wife, Elyn, as they are two of the most kind, generous and hospitable people that you could ever hope to meet.”