Auburn University art professor awarded National Science Foundation grant to study in Antarctica

Antarctica triptychAUBURN UNIVERSITY – Allyson Comstock, a professor in the Department of Art in Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant through the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.

Comstock is one of just two artists and the only awardee from Alabama to be selected this year. She will travel to Antarctica in October and will spend two months working collaboratively with researchers at Palmer Station to create a set of 30 total drawings to represent the Antarctic environment.

The goal of the Artists and Writers Program is to promote the research being done in Antarctica,” Comstock said. “I think scientists are doing a number of remarkable things, but the layperson sometimes has trouble accessing it. Through this project, I feel like I become a conduit in a way; I present it in a visual form which I think is easier for people to enter into so they can appreciate it.”

The project titled “Antarctica: Micro, Macro and In-between” will consist of a series of 10 sets of drawings laid out in three panels: one will represent the average person’s broad landscape view; one, a research scientist’s microscopic view; and one will position between the two and represent Comstock’s interpretation.

“It’s a landscape view, but much closer – not such a broad vista,” she explained. “I’m layering some of the larger landscape view and some of the microscopic imagery into that as well, so it’s sort of a merger of the two.”

Comstock said she visited Antarctica on an expedition cruise a few years ago, and that is how she learned about the NSF program. Experiencing the environment and taking a number of photographs helped her conceive the idea for her proposal.

“I will go there and photograph and do some drawing,” she said. “I took a number of photographs on my first trip, but now I’ll be photographing with more of an agenda. It’s really a two-part project: I’ll go there and conduct the research, then come back and spend many months in the studio executing the drawings.”

Comstock said she has already begun collaborating with University of Alabama at Birmingham professor and polar marine biologist James McClintock and looks forward to the opportunity to make his work and the work of other researchers more accessible.

The Antarctic Artists and Writers Program supports writing and artistic projects specifically designed to increase understanding and appreciation of the Antarctic and of human activities on the southernmost continent.

(Written by Carol Nelson.)

Contact: Carol Nelson, (334) 844-9999, (, or Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999, (