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Santa Clara University's de Saisset Museum Explores the Intersection of Art and Science Through Two Stunning Photo Exhibitions

Monday, Mar. 21, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 21, 2011—The de Saisset Museum opens the spring exhibition season with two photography exhibitions that seamlessly blend art and science. Life Cycle, an exhibit of photographs by Susan Middleton, and The Theater of Insects, a thought-provoking series by Jo Whaley, open to the public on April 9 and will be on view through June 12. 

Award-winning photographer, former chair of the California Academy of Sciences’ Department of Photography, and Santa Clara University alumna Susan Middleton ’70 has spent nearly 30 years documenting rare and endangered species, creating compelling portraits of animals that are seldom, if ever, seen by the public. Through this exhibition, which highlights two distinct bodies of work—Evidence of Evolution and Spineless—the artist introduces a suite of alluring creatures that illustrate the remarkable, mind-boggling variety found in our natural world.

Completed in 2009, Evidence of Evolution pictures extinct species from the collections of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The images, which are at once contemplative and reverential, celebrate the evolutionary development of plants and animals. Middleton’s more recent series, Spineless, focuses on marine invertebrates, a number of which are species new to science. The work showcases the extreme diversity of deep sea life and highlights the ways in which marine creatures adapt and change to improve their survival in the ocean.

Working in her characteristic style, Middleton frames the specimens in both series against neutral black or white backgrounds. Through the thoughtful exclusion of environment or habitat, the artist focuses the viewers’ attention exclusively on the individual features and characteristics of each animal.

On view simultaneously, Jo Whaley’s The Theater of Insects also explores the convergence of art and science. Inspired by old dioramas found in natural history museums, Whaley creates theatrically staged images of exquisitely colored insects against imaginary—almost dreamlike—backgrounds. Her specimens are entomologically accurate, yet they are juxtaposed with backgrounds composed of weathered, man-made materials like rusted metal, broken glass, painted wood, and crumpled paper. The result is a compelling pairing of nature and artifice, science and art.

Together, these exhibitions suggest the need for conservation and preservation. Yet, perhaps more significantly, they inspire a sense of wonderment and fascination with the amazing world in which we live.

Both Life Cycle and The Theater of Insects open to the public on April 9. A free celebratory reception will be held on Friday, April 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. On the following Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m., Jo Whaley will give an artist talk on The Theater of Insects. Susan Middleton will be present on May 12 at 7 p.m. to speak on the subject of art, science, and biodiversity. She will share a selection of photographs taken over the past 25 years. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information on the de Saisset’s exhibitions and programs, visit

Media Contact:
Lindsey Kouvaris | de Saisset Museum | 408-554-4528 | 408-554-7840 fax |

About the de Saisset Museum
The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University is the South Bay’s free museum of art and history. The museum was founded adjacent to the Mission Santa Clara de Asís on the Santa Clara University campus in 1955 and is one of only three museums in the South Bay accredited by the American Association of Museums. The de Saisset Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets objects of art and history for the educational and cultural enrichment of all people. The museum achieves its mission through an active program of exhibitions, collections, education programs, and publications.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University is a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley. Santa Clara offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s degrees in a number of professional fields, law degrees, and engineering and theology doctorates. Distinguished by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, Santa Clara educates leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion grounded in faith-inspired values. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest operating institution of higher education. For more information, see 

Susan Middleton, Pacific Giant Octopus (juvenile), Enteroctopus dofleini, 2010, photographed at Friday Harbor Marine Lab, University of Washington, San Juan Island, Wash., courtesy of the artist.

Tags: de Saisset Museum, Evidence of Evolution, exhibit, Jo Whaley, Life Cycle, Spineless, spring exhibition, Susan Middleton, The Theater of Insects

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