Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 15, 2019

'Heather and Mr. Peet' by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (Destinee)

“Heather and Mr. Peet” by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. This painting is the cover of children’s book “I Love You Just Enough.” 

Photo provided by Destinee Boutwell

Cordier Hosts Art Installation Inspired by Nature

Carly Greaves


The awe-inspiring beauty and diversity of nature has been unleashed upon the Cordier Auditorium lobby and halls.

Paintings depicting creatures and landscapes both gentle and wild hang on the cool grey walls within the vast building to be viewed by all. These works, created by artist and conservationist Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, are being displayed until Nov. 1. This unique collection gives students the chance to see art and nature intertwine to make something extraordinary.

The gallery itself was arranged by Ejenobo Oke, associate professor of art. She took paintings and ink sketches, on loan from van Frankenhuyzen, and organized them in a pattern throughout Cordier. This is a deliberate move by Oke, who said that this kind of placement allows people to “subconsciously or consciously make a connection.”

And her placement pays off, as each section of the gallery has its own select theme. No matter one’s taste in wildlife or scenery, they will find something to marvel at.

The main lobby of Cordier, accessible by the front doors, is dedicated to the African wilderness. These paintings are particularly colorful and eye-catching, with emphasis on sunlight and reflection. “Wood Storks” features two of the eponymous birds near a pond at sunrise, their white feathers contrasting stunningly with the vivid orange grasses and the soft violet background of distant trees. “Fishing Marabou Storks” has three of the incredibly detailed avians wading through water that reflects their image with remarkable accuracy. Van Frankenhuyzen’s talent is apparent through these images of African wildlife. However, it is not in the savannas where most of his passion lies.

The right hall off the Cordier Auditorium lobby is dedicated to art van Frankenhuyzen created on Hazel Ridge Farm, where he lives with his family, and to his illustrations in children’s books. Van Frankenhuyzen teams up with his wife, Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen, to make books such as “The Legend of Sleeping Bear,” “Itsy Bitsy & Teeny Weenie,” and “I Love You Just Enough.” These tales are used by van Frankenhuyzen to spread his love of nature and wildlife rehabilitation to hundreds of children.

The paintings here are bright and focused on the cute and fluffy. “View from the Studio” and “Grazing Sheep” are images captured from when Hazel Ridge Farm was a simple sheep farm, showing the wooly creatures peacefully grazing on sunlit hills. “Follow the Leader,” an illustration taken straight from “Itsy Bitsy & Teeny Weenie,” features a host of adorable animals (including a timid fawn) trailing after a woman along a grassy path. These serene scenes from Hazel Ridge Farm offer a look into country life that many do not have access to. But there is more to van Frankenhuyzen’s work than docile farm animals.

The left hall off the Cordier lobby is filled with images of the North American wilderness. It is here where van Frankenhuyzen truly shows his dedication to documenting nature. “Coyote” shows the canine standing in a winter forest, the snow coating the tree’s branches in a startlingly realistic matter. The chaotic scene of wolves hunting down a terrified moose while surrounded by swirling snowfall is presented in “Predator, Prey.” Alongside paintings such as these are several enlarged ink sketches offering van Frankenhuyzen’s observations of various water fowl, owls, raccoons and other creatures he has seen on Hazel Ridge Farm. Said farm was converted into a 40-acre nature reserve by the van Frankenhuyzens in order to shelter the many wild animals that they have rehabilitated over the years.

The works of van Frankenhuyzen, both artistic and altruistic, are an inspiration. Combining his talent and passion, van Frankenhuyzen is able to uniquely educate others about the world they live in and the beings they share it with. “Art helps people experience nature,” Oke said. “Then they want to learn more.”

The van Frankenhuyzen gallery may only be at the Cordier Auditorium for a couple more months, but that is more than enough time to experience nature beyond one’s wildest dreams.