Dr. Michael Stubblefield, a Brenau trustee, explains the detail in one of the works of art from his collection on display through March 2 at the Sellars Gallery in Brenau University’s Simmons Visual Arts Center.

Trustee shares love of bird art and birdwatching with gallery guests

Feb 25, 2022
Edie Rogers

Visitors to the Feb. 24 gallery talk for Bird Art in the Age of Discovery and Beyond: Works from the Stubblefield Collection were treated to a history of avian art and ornithology, punctuated with humorous personal stories from Brenau trustee Dr. Michael Stubblefield.

Circling the Sellars Gallery in Brenau University’s Simmons Visual Arts Center, Stubblefield explained how the practice of documenting birds changed from the 1500s when aristocrats sought decorative depictions of birds to today’s digital scientific references.

“We go from birds that were shipped from abroad in small cans to Audubon’s birds that were wired up and painted to John Gould who is trying to really describe birds from around the world that people wouldn’t have known,” Stubblefield said. “Now, on my phone using eBird I can pull up thousands of photos of birds and look at their characteristics. Everybody can be a scientist. So it’s really been this amazing evolution.”

Dr. Michael Stubblefield and wife Elyn pose with Brenau President Anne Skleder.

As well as sharing his adventures in collecting art and traveling the world to photograph birds, Stubblefield talked about birds that had been driven extinct.

“This was one of the most common birds in the world. Hunters would describe flocks that went by, blocking out the sky for days,” he said, gesturing to Audubon’s print of the passenger pigeon. “They went extinct through over-hunting and destroying their habitat, which if you’d imagine, they really needed a lot of habitat.”

Stubblefield encouraged visitors to help protect birds by showing an appreciation for them, fighting to preserve bird habitats and keeping cats indoors.

The exhibition continues through March 2 and is free and open to the public. Photos and information about the works included in the exhibition will remain on the galleries website. The selected pieces span nearly 300 years and demonstrate how much art and artists’ views have evolved surrounding the scientific depiction of birds. 

On loan from Stubblefield and wife Elyn, the extensive exhibit includes works from artists like Sarah Stone, Samuel Howitt, John James Audubon and others. 

“We are excited to work with Dr. Michael Stubblefield to display these selections from his vast collection of scientific bird art,” Nichole Ferguson, director of Brenau University Galleries, said. “His passion for this subject is truly contagious, and I know that those who attend the gallery talk will admire the charisma and expertise with which he shares his presentation. Dr. Stubblefield has been a strong supporter of the university for several years, and we are tremendously grateful for all the ways that his generosity continues to manifest.”

Stubblefield, 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, is an accomplished professional nature photographer, writer, art collector and birder. His natural history images and articles have appeared in hundreds of publications across the globe, and he has won several awards for both his photography and writing. 

The Stubblefields have explored and photographed the wonders of nature around the world. Their collection of images numbers more than 100,000 and includes hundreds of species of birds in addition to scores of mammals and fish as well as spectacular scenes of some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful landscapes.

For more information, visit galleries.brenau.edu.