Story posted April 20, 2012
The National Academy Museum & School in New York City has honored Thomas Cornell, art professor and Bowdoin’s Richard E. Steele Artist-in-Residence, in two ways — one beautiful yet fleeting; the other, lofty and lasting.
Cornell’s Dependency on Nature and the Death of War, an oil-on-canvas work completed in 2011, is part of the National Academy exhibition, The Annual: 2012, which opened in January and concludes April 29.
"The intention of the painting is to inspire the acknowledgement of human dependency on nature," says Cornell, who says the work embodies a "new genesis" and "global good" — encouraging culture to achieve environmental responsibility.
"Crucial to the painting is a mother passionately, gloriously in love with a baby, surrounded by orioles, grasses and vines. Spring envelops them, as an index of the necessity of the new ecological consciousness. There are goats that are intrigued. The father is attentive, but pleased to point to a figure of war committing suicide — the noble death of war. Increased environmental justice will lessen wars fought over all our natural resources. The point is to celebrate a new consciousness of environmental justice and the ecological order — the necessary global spring."
The current exhibition is in the National Academy's newly renovated museum, a Beaux Arts building located on Manhattan’s Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue.
National Academicians are elected to membership by their peers, and as part of this renovation, Cornell’s name joins those of fellow Academicians carved into the ceiling of the building’s entrance.
Collectively, Academicians have included leading artists and comprise a legacy of American visual culture since its founding in 1842.
Cornell’s legacy stretches beyond the canvas as he was brought to Bowdoin in 1962 to broaden the art department curriculum to include the visual arts. As chairman of the full department, he spearheaded the separation of Visual Arts from Art History in the mid-1970s.
Having shared his passion for teaching and visual art with the College for 50 years, Cornell is retiring at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.