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Lafayette artist Herman Mhire’s upcoming photography exhibition, “The Art and Science of Shells,” will be featured at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum beginning July 5 and running through Sept. 25.

A longtime art professor at UL Lafayette and former director of the University Art Museum, Mhire, according to a handout detailing the exhibition (see gallery below):

... captures the subtle beauty and sense of wonder evoked by seashells in this exhibition, which also includes shells on loan from an extraordinary private collection.  Seashells are defined as the hard, protective outer layer once occupied by a mollusk or crustacean, a tiny animal that lives in the sea. Mhire began photographing seashells in 2012 as “meditations upon the forms, colors and patterns of marine mollusk exoskeletons found in oceans around the world.”

Mhire selected his subjects from more than 7,000 species and 100,000 specimens collected by Dr. Emilio Garcia, a world renowned malacologist — an expert in the study of mollusks. Dr. Garcia has an extensive publication record, has collected shells around the world, and has gone on numerous dredging expeditions over the past nine years as part of his work recording the molluscan biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico.  

To create his shell series, Mhire photographed his subjects against a neutral background. After taking extraordinary close-up photographs using the camera on his iPhone 4s, he enlarged the images to reveal microscopic details and individual characteristics of each shell. His early photographs were commercially printed in sizes ranging from 30-by-20 inches to 80-by-60 inches. Mhire subsequently purchased a large format ink jet printer to print his images.  

As his approach to image-making evolved, he replaced the neutral backgrounds and shallow spaces of his early photographs with a matte black background that more dramatically emphasizes the form, color and pattern of each seashell. Inspired by stories of scientific underwater exploration and discoveries of fantastic new species, he altered his shell photographs using computer software in order to produce a dizzying array of imaginary forms set within surreal environments, suggesting a whimsical world of nautical wonders.

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