Curiosity drives Fargo microbiology professor in science and in her art – InForum

FARGO — Whether she’s studying plant bacteria under a microscope or a family of wild horses through her camera lens, North Dakota State University microbiology professor Birgit Pruess loves studying living things.

“Curiosity is what drives a good scientist. But it also leads to creativity and innovation in both science and art,” Pruss said.

Her most recent art project involved traveling to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota over several years to document the wild horses that call the backcountry and vistas home.

Pruss said her interest in horses has come full circle in her life as a microbiologist, two subjects for which she often draws parallels between the art and science of observation.

“I observed the behavior of the horses and put it in the context of the ecology of the park,” she said.

It’s all part of her new book Wild and Free in TRNP; The Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park,” which launched on Amazon in April and is the focus of an exhibit at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo starting July 18.

Flax is one of Birgit Pruss’s favorite stallions to watch and document in her photography.

Contributed by Birgit Prus

Pruess, who was born and raised in Germany, had her own horse as a teenager. When she came to America in 1992, she focused more on being a scientist for several years, until a visit to the west rekindled her interest in both animals and photography.

“I started getting more serious about art in 2014 because I felt I needed more balance in my life. I then honed my photography skills and spent about eight years making frequent trips to Theodore Roosevelt National Park watching horses,” Pruss said.

In a nod to his roots in biology, Preuss is also a skilled jewelry maker who uses beads to create strings of molecules like oxytocin and caffeine.

“It’s a small audience for these pieces, like other scientists who think the molecules are pure,” she said.

Pruss has put jewelry production on hold for now while she works to promote her wild horse projects. However, some of her works are available in Gallery 4.

Eye to eye.JPG

“Eye to Eye” depicts a bison peering out of the brush in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A representation of this photograph can be found in a utility box located on 13th Avenue South in Fargo as part of a public art project led by the City of Fargo Arts and Culture Commission.

Contributed by Birgit Prus

Here’s more about artist and scientist Birgit Pruss.

Q: What is your artist origin story?

A: I’ve probably been an artist all my life without knowing it. But I did knitting in college, macrame in high school, and always loved my camera. I have also made science-inspired jewelry, such as wire/bead sculptures of molecules (eg caffeine) or microbiological objects (eg viruses). In a sense, I came full circle and still ended up in biology, which is the field in which I received my Ph.D. inches While I am now a professor of microbiology at NDSU, my original passion for almost anything living remains active. Art is just another way to express it and share the joy with other people.

Q: How would you describe your artistic style?

A: I think I found a niche in my nature and wildlife photography (Fargo has some excellent landscape photographers) and became an innovator with science-inspired jewelry.

Q: Who do you admire or emulate in your work?

A: The goal is definitely to admire or express love and appreciation. In some ways, a photo matches what I see, but the interpretation of the subject is still up to the photographer, and perspective and framing can make a big difference. Likewise, jewelry is modeled after the actual structures of chemicals or biological entities, but the interpretation through the wire and beads is up to the artist.

Q: What kinds of beliefs or social mores are you trying to express in your work (if any)?

A: For photography, I try to convey the value of the different forms of life in whose environment we live. I also try to teach people to respect nature and wildlife. For example, the book contains advice such as “keep to 25 yards and use a long lens” to prevent accidents. It also contains names of flowers and animals. So there is definitely teaching. When it comes to jewelry, I’m trying to get across that science is important everywhere and that we shouldn’t be afraid of it. I also think that knowing a local scientist can create a bridge between the sometimes abstract teachings of science.

Q: What do you want people to know about being a local artist?

A: First, anyone can do art. Once you get over the fear of not being good at it, you can do it. It also applies to science, by the way. Second, I think it’s important for people to know that there are artists who are local and not in some famous museum far away. Most artists are neither famous nor rich. But they are right here among us and they need your support and appreciation.

Q: When you’re feeling uninspired, what lifts you up?

A: Nature, which brings us back to biology, science and art.

Q: Favorite tool or instrument?

A: My new camera.

Copies of ‘Wild and Free in TRNP; The Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park” is available locally at Gallery 4, Zandbroz Variete and the Fargo Library. The book is also available for purchase at 4e Winery in Casselton, as well as several stores in Medora, ND

Buy print (black and white) or e-book (full color) copies on Amazon. Contact Pruess at her email address, [email protected], for commission requests and other inquiries.

Wild and Free in TRNP is made possible by funding in part from the North Dakota Arts Council and the Arts Partnership.

What: Reception for the opening of ‘Wild and Free in TRNP; The Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park”
When: 5-7pm on July 21

Where: Spirit Room Studio Lotus Gallery, Fargo

Information: A separate book signing is scheduled for July 23. Photographs from the book collection will be on display from July 18 to August 13.

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