Mia Brownell’s sabbatical last fall was fruitful, to say the least.
Brownell, an associate professor of art, was awarded a $25,000 commission from the University of Connecticut Health Center for the installation of her painting, “Still Life with Dendrite Dreams.” It is located in UConn’s Cell and Genome Sciences Building.
The piece exhibits the captivating greens and subtle red undertones of pears and the plush blacks, purples and reds of sprawling grapes. This was her first major public art commission.
“I was hugely complimented,” she says.
The UConn Health Center scientists shared their cutting-edge genetic research with Brownell, who used it as inspiration. Brownell used her ability to meld highly scientific subjects with fruit to generate the painting.
“I have been painting about food for a long time,” she says. “Science is a big part of food culture.”
During her fall sabbatical, Brownell also was nominated as a runner-up for the United Kingdom’s Young Master Art Prize. The award celebrates the skills and traditions of the past and honors young artists who demonstrate those talents.
She also launched an exhibit called “The Legitimate Vagina” last October. She says she was disturbed by former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comment about how women’s bodies can prevent a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape”— a comment he made in a media interview during his run for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. Brownell encouraged local artists to submit vagina-inspired imagery meant to encourage conversation about women’s issues in politics.
She collaborated with Jennifer Hudson, an adjunct faculty member in the Women’s Studies program, and Rachael Vaters-Carr, associate professor of art.
“We felt like we had to do something,” she says.
In March, Brownell will be featured in two group shows in New York. And in April, she will have her first solo museum exhibition titled “Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting” at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, N.J.
“The 2014 exhibit will represent the past 10 years of my life,” she says. “It’s a decadent moment to have a glimpse of objectivity and see it all together. And everyone is invited.”
A native of New Rochelle, N.Y., Brownell says Southern has been a great place to work and that Connecticut is an important part of who she is as a person, teacher and artist.
At the conclusion of each semester, Brownell says she likes to encourage her students to continue pursuing art and tells them to try and keep pace with the evolution of their imaginations.
“I think that’s what I’m trying to do now,” she says.
(For further information about Mia Brownell’s exhibits, visit miabrownell.com )