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Art Professor Finds Inspiration in Nature


Professor Hilary Lorenz has been at LIU for many years. But what some of you might not know, is that outside the classroom, Professor Lorenz has quite the interesting life. From building her own studio in New Mexico, to climbing high peaks. Despite what many students think about professors, Lorenz doesn’t spend as much time in the classroom as she does outside. 

As a first-generation college student from Michigan, Lorenz has loved art for as long as she can remember, and part of the reason on why she is who she is today is based off of her self-sufficiency. “I worked full-time, putting myself through college. I wanted to do it by myself because I did not want to feel like I ‘owed’ anything to anyone. I wanted to earn my own way altogether.”

Before LIU, Lorenz taught at Alfred University and The Maryland Institute College of Art. She recalls an experience she had  in her late 30’s that not only changed her art work, but also helped change the way that she lived her life. 

“I want to create something that is more about my feelings for the place I have just been,” said Lorenz.

While starting her studies in biology, she soon after switched over to art, she wanted to find a way to put her love of science as well as her love for art together. Because of this, she ended up graduating with a bachlors degree in Painting as well as a M.A and a M.F.A degree in both Printmaking and Intermedia all while working as a reseach assistant in microbiology.

The Santa Fe Art Institute had invited Lorenz to be an artist residence and while there she saw a sign about a hike with their Sierra Club. At 18 miles and 5 high altitude peaks, Lorenz signed right up. At this time she had already ran the NYC Marathon and was in the middle of training for the Boston Marathon. 

“I have since learned that most runners, no matter how fit, are destroyed by the altitude and difficulty of scrambling through the mountains. Still, I was lucky, it was a perfect hike for me, and I spent the summer hiking every weekend,” said Lorenz. 

The artwork at the Santa Fe Art Institute that Lorenz was doing was based on boundaries, demarcations and mapping that are both implied and real. The hiking helped show that and helped influence future art work. 

One of Lorenz’s recent projects that she has worked on since becoming a professor at LIU is called the Moth Migration Project. “The project refers to how bees and other insects pollinate the world’s food and to the cross-pollination of ideas in art and science,” said Lorenz. 

Started in 2016, the project has been shown in places from New Mexico to Texas as well as in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. In the fall of 2021, it is set to be shown in Denver Colorado. 

According to the Moth Migration webpage, the project “creates a spirit more significant than any single community by fostering authentic connections and engaging public participation through a synergy of shared experience and embracing mutual respects for personal uniqueness and creativity.”

When Lorenz was commissioned to begin this project, she chose moths as the subject and with the help of social media, reached out to other artists to help create paper moths native to their geographic location. 

“I put limits on materials of using only back, white, and grayscale color and paper as media,” said Lorenz. 

The project has had the help of almost 20,000 artistsfrom 26 different countries, including two LIU alumni. Joanna Gonzalez, who graduated LIU with a bachelor’s degree of Arts in 2014, helped design the postcards that Lorenz sent to the people who submitted moth’s for the project. And Josh LaMore, who also graduated in 2014 as class valedictorian of the Honors College, archived the massive amounts of photographs and documents that artists sent with their work. 

“I want people to be able to walk through it and get the sense of being with these moths,” said Lorenz. 

With her love of art and her love of nature, she also has a love for hiking. One of her favorite experiences came from a sponsored hike of the Klondike Gold Rush Trail, also known as the Chilkoot Trail, that starts in Alaska and ends in Canada.

Sponsored by Yukon Art Center in Canada, Lorenz made a bingo game, with 200 hand printed bingo cards, using animal and nature related cards that are related to the scenery she viewed on the hike. 

“To make my artwork it’s not just to be at different places, it’s to be engaged at different places as strongly as I can,” said Lorenz. 

She does a lot of this artwork at her studio in New Mexico. The studio to Lorenz can be considered one of her “most prized projects.” After building the studio from the ground up in just three months out of mud, stone and wood, it is equipped with printing presses, large hand-built tables, and a stunning atmosphere outside. 

“We hauled all the rocks down, then had to drive to the arroyo and brought back five truckloads of sand. It was definitely Mr. Miyagi summer, after that we put it all together and it was amazing,” Lorenz said. 

Every summer, if you cannot find Lorenz hiking up a new mountain peak on her list, you will find her spending most of the summer in her studio working on upcoming projects such as her project of building a canoe in her studio. 

As students, we sometimes forget that professors have lives outside the classroom. For professors like Hilary Lorenz, there is a lot more that goes on in her life from projects outside of the ones she does with students, to hiking and helping create projects that get shown all over the world. 

This story was written for the JOU-136 Environmental Reporting class.

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