ʳɫƵ State grad embraces the art of research

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 14, 2024

Chantelle Chapman
For Chantelle Chapman, research includes bright colors, gouache paints, and a studio—rather than test tubes, safety goggles, a lab coat, and a laboratory.

From Chapman’s studio came an art project about an extinct bird, the Carolina parakeet, that was declared extinct in 1939. The series of gouache paintings, “Parakeet Lost,” built upon research that included visits to museum specimen collections, earned a runner-up prize at ʳɫƵ’s Spring , a rarity for a student in the College of the Arts.

“I’ve had such a wonderful response to the work. People have been so interested, first of all, to see art in a research setting, and second, I have heard over and over, ‘I never knew this bird existed!’” said Chapman, who recently earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a dual concentration in illustration and painting and drawing. “It felt like people were being enriched to have learned about this lost species.”

She also presented her project at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April in Long Beach, California. Chapman went all-in for both presentations, wearing a skirt printed with illustrations of the parakeet by renowned mid-century bird artist Charley Harper, and sewed by Chapman herself—another original work that added to the project.

Growing up in far north Georgia near the Smoky Mountains, Chapman spent a lot of time outside, surrounded by nature. Raised by an artist mother, she was encouraged to explore her own creativity early on. Over time, she combined the two and focused her artistic endeavors on painting animals, particularly extinct and endangered species after learning about them in elementary school.

“Most people are familiar with exotic lost species, like the dodo. When I was approaching this project, I wanted to choose an animal that was more immediate and relatable—something that once lived in our own backyards – the Carolina parakeet,” she said. “It was a very compelling idea to me, that we had not only lost this unique, local animal, but forgotten about it in less than a hundred years. I wanted to inspire people to think about what other wonders are slipping away right under our noses.”

She has worked with associate professor of art Jonathan Fisher for the past three years. In Spring 2021, with most of ʳɫƵ’s offerings online, Chapman took a 2000-level course, Concept, Creativity, and Studio Practice. Fisher saw a mature, serious, curious, and motivated student who might do well with research as an undergraduate.

“Research is homing in on any sort of curiosity that you might have,” Fisher said. “Research in the arts is more talking about a process or being kind of self-reflective around artmaking processes or around history or around people and that you can tell a story with images as well. That's the thing with Chantelle—she very easily could have just written a paper about the Carolina parakeet and how it went into extinction. But she did that research and presented as images what she felt was meaningful from that research.”

Four years on, Chapman made the right choice in colleges because she considers herself a storyteller, and ʳɫƵ’s School of Art and Design illustration program helped her bring out the message in her work. She first learned about ʳɫƵ at Dragon Con in Atlanta, where the University had an information table.

“I've just been so, so happy with my decision to go to ʳɫƵ,” she said. “Everyone's been very friendly, not only on the art and style front, but the faculty and the student body are just so supportive and encouraging. I've just really enjoyed my time here.”

Chapman will continue making art and telling stories from nature. She plans on showing her art throughout the summer while applying for artist fellowships. Chapman’s next project involves the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in 1914; she’s already started the research for that project, and she hopes to include both the parakeets and the pigeons in books about extinct and endangered species.

“I want to write and illustrate my own natural history-themed books, with a strong scientific grounding,” she said. “My goal is to use my art to tell the stories that I think are important, and to share them with others.”

– Story by Dave Shelles

Photos by Matt Young

 

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, ʳɫƵ offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. ʳɫƵ State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. ʳɫƵ State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.