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NMSU faculty's talent for art and agriculture blend to create memorable visual experiences

If you have walked around New Mexico State University's Las Cruces campus, you may have seen the bronze sculpture of a cowboy reading to a child behind Branson Library. Grant Kinzer, former department head of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science, created that sculpture titled "The Joy of Learning" in 1986.

Professors showcase their artwork.
Max Bleiweiss, director of the Center for Applied Sensing in Agriculture, Meteorology and Environment, along with U.S. Geological Survey, took several satellite photos to create a photo of earth as seen from space. (NMSU photo by Angela Simental)
Professors showcase their artwork.
Gerald Sims, department head of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science, is also a photographer. Some of his favorite photographs are displayed in his office.(NMSU photo by Angela Simental)
Professors showcase their artwork.
David Richman, retired NMSU professor and former curator of The Arthropod Museum on campus, shows off a butterfly from the museum. Richman takes photographs and turns them into watercolor paintings. He has shown his work in two exhibitions. (NMSU photo by Darrell Pehr)

It might seem that agriculture and art are polar opposites; one belongs to the analytical and scientific, and the other to the creative and instinctive. However, a number of professors in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences not only can see the kinship between the two, but also personally demonstrate how science can inspire works of art.

Current EPPWS department head Gerald Sims is following Kinzer's creative tradition with a camera. An avid photographer, Sims said that for him, both his career as a microbiologist and his love of photography come from "a desire to discover something."

Sims' father was a photographer for the Army during World War II. At the age of 17, Sims, a self-taught photographer, received his first job photographing a wedding.

"I'm interested in how something seems to feel," Sims said, showing his collection of photographs. "I like my photographs to make you feel like you were there."

His portfolio shows a variety of photos, depicting serene and mysterious nature scenes in sepia and black and white. Vibrant and colorful photographs show his trip to Portugal, and some are deeply personal, inspired by the people he loves.

Sims has a camera collection, which includes a single-lens reflex camera from 1919. He has sold more than 100 photographs and has participated in several exhibitions.

"I like the technical side of photography, but I also enjoy the artistic side," Sims said.

Max Bleiweiss, director of the Center for Applied Sensing in Agriculture, Meteorology and Environment, uses some of his artistic talents to promote science in ways others might not imagine.

"The work that I do is primarily involved with remote sensing, where I look at things from a distance using satellites," Bleiweiss said.

In conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, Bleiweiss created a project called "Earth as Art," which features stunning photographs of Earth taken from satellites. Twelve of the 50 images are on display at the lab wing in Skeen Hall.

"I enjoy coming into that wing and seeing students looking at those images - for them to see the Earth in a way they wouldn't otherwise experience it," he said.

That display led to another exhibition outside the main office at Skeen Hall, which features a selection of photographs portraying different aspects of agriculture.

Bleiweiss is also very active in the local arts community. He and his wife own M. Phillip's Art Gallery in downtown Las Cruces, where they sell artwork from New Mexico and Russia.

Bleiweiss has also donated artwork from his gallery to the department and plans to work with the Chile Pepper Institute on a photographic display.

Like Sims and Bleiweiss, David Richman, a retired NMSU professor and former curator of the arthropod museum, rediscovered his love for art after he retired two years ago from NMSU.

"My mother was interested in art, but I never followed that line. I was interested in science," Richman said.

Richman has been taking several art workshops and classes and has been part of two exhibitions - one at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

Richman photographs scenes he likes, and then turns them into paintings using watercolor and ink.

"My main interest is to produce art that I can either give away or donate to charitable organizations," Richman said.

Four of his paintings will be auctioned at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

"In order to be a good artist, you need to be a good observer," he added. "In order to be a good field biologist, you need to be a good observer, so they come together pretty well."