Nature celebrated through Laudato Sí-inspired exhibit

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
Nature celebrated through Laudato Sí-inspired exhibit
Nature celebrated through Laudato Sí-inspired exhibit


By EmmaLee Italia| Correspondent

Compared with a large and permanent exhibit space, The Aquinas Institute, Princeton, might not be the first place one imagines a thoughtfully curated display of both modern and ancient art and artifacts.

The gathering space of the Catholic Campus Ministry for Princeton University on Charlton Street is more like a cozy, welcoming living room than a place to view an exhibit on nature viewed through the lens of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Sí.” But that’s exactly what Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic education, has created.

“It’s a celebration through time of the human and the natural, and we need to understand the connection before we lose it,” explained Father Zeis, who is also The Aquinas Institute’s chaplain. “It’s our annual open house, and our second year [for the event]; it includes an element of the Catholic tradition, proclaiming Christ in a welcoming way.”

“Laudato Sí: Proclaiming God’s Glory in Nature” opened Nov. 11, with many of the contributing donors and artists present to answer questions and see the exhibit for themselves. The items will be on display through Dec. 1, open to individuals and groups who wish to reserve a viewing time.

Father Zeis, himself a collector of ancient works, curated the exhibit with contributions from artists and collectors cherry-picked from his vast circle of friends and associates. It affords an unexpected variety of items, interspersed with prayers, quotes from “Laudato Sí” and explanations of how the pieces evoke wonder at the natural world.

“We wanted to show the encyclical in a simple way, and talk about the nexus between creation and theology,” Father Zeis said. Acting as docent, he expounded on the various contributions to attendees, assuring that each piece received the attention it deserved.

“It’s eclectic and impressive,” said Pete Bernot, who visited the collection with colleague Bob Konzelmann. “We wouldn’t otherwise have recognized the value and beauty of some of the [items] – you have to take the time to stop and look.”

Bernot and Konzelmann were invited by Father Zeis because of their work on a presentation that seeks to prove the existence of God, in which they use Hubble telescope photography in a quasi-interview format. “We use logic and a common sense argument … Our goal is to take the program to high schools,” Konzelmann said.

A major contributor to the collection was Mark Fleischman, longtime friend of Father Zeis, who runs the small museum “Geo-Land” in New Hope, Pa. He has been collecting and selling various geological and historic artifacts since the 1960s, some of which are millions of years old.

“I started collecting as a kid in the 1950s, and I’ve been friends with Father Zeis for over 20 years,” Fleischman attested. “He used to teach comparative religion, and would use collected pieces to aid in his classes.” Fleischman’s displayed items included insects, fossils, turquoise jewelry and giant seashells.

Another major contributor was John Whitley, local paleontologist from Cream Ridge, who offered some astounding New Jersey and Pennsylvania finds, including an impression of fern fronds in shale determined to be over 323 million years old.

Danna Hargett, a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instructor at The Aquinas Institute, contributed a photographic interpretation of her recent trip to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier in Chamonix, France: a box of lights and mirrors reflecting suspended photos of snow-capped mountains and a miniature cable car.

“I’m a climber, but I was ill on this particular trip,” Hargett explained. “So I was stuck on the cable car over the glacier, 12,000 feet in the air in between the mountain peaks, taking photos. Unless you see it sort of distorted and at the wrong angle, you can’t get the feel of what it’s really like.”

Ariana Lospenuso, seventh grader in Timothy Christian Academy, Eastampton, knew Father Zeis from St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and as a family friend. After seeing some of her nature photography, he invited her to display three of her sunset photos for the exhibit.

“I love nature and taking photos of the earth,” said Lospenuso. “I love flowers and trees. We do a lot of hiking, and I stop to take photos on our hikes.” While she enjoys photography as a hobby, it isn’t a career aspiration of hers. “I want to be a pediatrician,” she said emphatically.

The exhibit also included a blown glass orb representing Earth, specifically created for the collection by Hot Sand Glass Blowing Studio, Asbury Park; black and white photos of Gettysburg, Pa., by Michael Ennis; first edition signed copies of literature by New Jersey naturalist authors; icons from 16th and 17th century Byzantine churches; photos of the Milky Way galaxy taken by the Hubble space telescope from 1990-98, and much more.

“We are mesmerized by the beauty in nature,” said Father Zeis. “St. Francis of Assisi talked about it so often – we need to celebrate the moment and see God’s presence.”

 

 

 

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By EmmaLee Italia| Correspondent

Compared with a large and permanent exhibit space, The Aquinas Institute, Princeton, might not be the first place one imagines a thoughtfully curated display of both modern and ancient art and artifacts.

The gathering space of the Catholic Campus Ministry for Princeton University on Charlton Street is more like a cozy, welcoming living room than a place to view an exhibit on nature viewed through the lens of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Sí.” But that’s exactly what Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic education, has created.

“It’s a celebration through time of the human and the natural, and we need to understand the connection before we lose it,” explained Father Zeis, who is also The Aquinas Institute’s chaplain. “It’s our annual open house, and our second year [for the event]; it includes an element of the Catholic tradition, proclaiming Christ in a welcoming way.”

“Laudato Sí: Proclaiming God’s Glory in Nature” opened Nov. 11, with many of the contributing donors and artists present to answer questions and see the exhibit for themselves. The items will be on display through Dec. 1, open to individuals and groups who wish to reserve a viewing time.

Father Zeis, himself a collector of ancient works, curated the exhibit with contributions from artists and collectors cherry-picked from his vast circle of friends and associates. It affords an unexpected variety of items, interspersed with prayers, quotes from “Laudato Sí” and explanations of how the pieces evoke wonder at the natural world.

“We wanted to show the encyclical in a simple way, and talk about the nexus between creation and theology,” Father Zeis said. Acting as docent, he expounded on the various contributions to attendees, assuring that each piece received the attention it deserved.

“It’s eclectic and impressive,” said Pete Bernot, who visited the collection with colleague Bob Konzelmann. “We wouldn’t otherwise have recognized the value and beauty of some of the [items] – you have to take the time to stop and look.”

Bernot and Konzelmann were invited by Father Zeis because of their work on a presentation that seeks to prove the existence of God, in which they use Hubble telescope photography in a quasi-interview format. “We use logic and a common sense argument … Our goal is to take the program to high schools,” Konzelmann said.

A major contributor to the collection was Mark Fleischman, longtime friend of Father Zeis, who runs the small museum “Geo-Land” in New Hope, Pa. He has been collecting and selling various geological and historic artifacts since the 1960s, some of which are millions of years old.

“I started collecting as a kid in the 1950s, and I’ve been friends with Father Zeis for over 20 years,” Fleischman attested. “He used to teach comparative religion, and would use collected pieces to aid in his classes.” Fleischman’s displayed items included insects, fossils, turquoise jewelry and giant seashells.

Another major contributor was John Whitley, local paleontologist from Cream Ridge, who offered some astounding New Jersey and Pennsylvania finds, including an impression of fern fronds in shale determined to be over 323 million years old.

Danna Hargett, a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instructor at The Aquinas Institute, contributed a photographic interpretation of her recent trip to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier in Chamonix, France: a box of lights and mirrors reflecting suspended photos of snow-capped mountains and a miniature cable car.

“I’m a climber, but I was ill on this particular trip,” Hargett explained. “So I was stuck on the cable car over the glacier, 12,000 feet in the air in between the mountain peaks, taking photos. Unless you see it sort of distorted and at the wrong angle, you can’t get the feel of what it’s really like.”

Ariana Lospenuso, seventh grader in Timothy Christian Academy, Eastampton, knew Father Zeis from St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and as a family friend. After seeing some of her nature photography, he invited her to display three of her sunset photos for the exhibit.

“I love nature and taking photos of the earth,” said Lospenuso. “I love flowers and trees. We do a lot of hiking, and I stop to take photos on our hikes.” While she enjoys photography as a hobby, it isn’t a career aspiration of hers. “I want to be a pediatrician,” she said emphatically.

The exhibit also included a blown glass orb representing Earth, specifically created for the collection by Hot Sand Glass Blowing Studio, Asbury Park; black and white photos of Gettysburg, Pa., by Michael Ennis; first edition signed copies of literature by New Jersey naturalist authors; icons from 16th and 17th century Byzantine churches; photos of the Milky Way galaxy taken by the Hubble space telescope from 1990-98, and much more.

“We are mesmerized by the beauty in nature,” said Father Zeis. “St. Francis of Assisi talked about it so often – we need to celebrate the moment and see God’s presence.”

 

 

 

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