Don Luce earned a degree in Zoology and a master’s degree in Medical and Biological Illustration from the University of Michigan. For over forty years, he combined his interests in science, art and nature to develop original temporary and permanent exhibitions at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum, before retiring in summer 2021. Exhibition topics included art and nature, ecology, evolution, animal behavior, endangered species, and current university research. Many of these exhibitions toured nationally as part of the museum’s touring exhibition programs. Don also curated the museum’s collection of art, which includes many works by Francis Lee Jaques who painted the museum’s dioramas, a complete set of John James Audubon’s original Birds of America folio, and many other historical and contemporary works of wildlife art. He is the author of the book Francis Lee Jaques: Artist-Naturalist, the exhibition catalog Audubon and the Art of Birds and is a co-author of the book A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum.
Don remains active as an illustrator and artist. He illustrated books such as Minnesota’s
Natural Heritage by John Tester and was an artist-in-residence at Joshua Tree National
Park. A retrospective exhibition of his art and illustrations, A View from a Canoe, showed
at the Bell Museum in fall 2016. His paintings have been featured in one-person exhibitions at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN and the Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan.
During his residency year, Don focused his creative energy on Dr. Dave Tilman's Big Biodiversity experiment, creating portraits of a subset of the plots in a way that tells the story of the research, researchers, and more.
I have long been fascinated by the plots in the “Big Bio” experiment. The plant diversity in each plot has been limited to a set number of species. This dramatic human intervention has revealed many underlying ecological processes. In viewing these plots, I’ve been stuck by the distinctive appearance of each plot. As a painter, I’d like to explore the shapes, colors, lines and patterns that characterize each plot......[and] produce a “portrait” of each plot. I envision these “portraits” to be somewhere on a continuum from representation to abstraction. My objective would be to have each portrait reveal how the limitation of its diversity led to a distinctive appearance.
Don's work is on display at the Bell Museum of Natural History in St. Paul through September 10th, 2023 and is viewable with regular museum admission. You can also read more about and see pictures of his work in this blog post about his project.