Jessie Robertson poses with some of her artwork

November 14, 2022

Jessie Robertson can trace her love for frogs back to her childhood, when her grandfather gave her a stuffed toy named “Froggy.” Today, she uses her passion for art to promote their conservation.

Robertson brings attention to endangered frog species through her artwork and raises money for SAVE THE FROGS!, an amphibian conservation organization. In 2012, she came across the organization and learned of the enormous threats frogs face, said Robertson.

“Not only are roughly a third of all amphibian species threatened with extinction, but it is predicted that that same amount may be extinct by 2050,” she continued. “These statistics were painfully startling to discover. SAVE THE FROGS! helped me transform these terrifying realizations into a driving goal.”

Since 2018, Robertson’s frog artwork has been displayed in solo and group art exhibits in local galleries, including ACES Gallery, Art in Bloom Gallery and the Spadefish Gallery at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

In the summer of 2022, Robertson examined a collection of lifelike frog and toad statuettes from 16th century Padua, Italy, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Using a visual analysis through a herpetological lens, Robertson looked at 11 Paduan bronze frogs and toads to determine what species they depicted and the artwork’s accuracy. The examination of the statuettes was part of a research project she started under Dr. Abigail Upshaw. 

“Comparing each with real frog and toad species can allow us to understand better the unique artistic processes and scientific interests that created them,” said Robertson. “As someone who strives to depict frogs realistically in their work, it was inspiring to see such mastery from artists who had the same goal.”

Robertson is continuing her research as an interdisciplinary Honors project. While she generally maintains frogs as the subject of her work, Robertson also explores different artistic media.

“By majoring in both studio art and digital arts, I had the freedom to explore all the visual art classes UNCW offers,” said Robertson, a recipient of the UNCW Distinguished Merit and UNCW Honors College Scholarships. To expand her knowledge, Robertson also took a herpetology class. She met other students with similar interests and had the opportunity to observe the amphibians.

“While there are a million ways I’ve grown as an artist over the course of my life, I’ve never considered how I might have grown as a person from it,” she said. “I think that might be because, like my passion for frogs, my love of art in all kinds of media has been a part of me my entire life. Rather than something separate from me, the ways I create art tend to be tied to the ways I operate in general, with a lot of curiosity, passion, patience and standards.”

-- Venita Jenkins