Leslie Koptcho wants to talk about Mike the Tiger before getting to her own work.

She's a professor in the LSU College of Art & Design's Printmaking Program, and Mike is a symbol of art and school spirit in her classes.

"We all make a print of a part of Mike the Tiger," she said, spreading the results on top of a table. "Each student does a part of Mike, then we put it all together. Every fall I try assign Mike for team spirit."

The collaborative print was created in the Printmaking Program's lab in the basement of Hatcher Hall, where Koptcho makes her own prints, one of which is featured in "Recent Work: LSU School of Art Faculty Exhibition."

The show runs through Oct. 6 in LSU's Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery in the Shaw Center for the Arts.

And for Koptcho, the facilities where she created that print are as important as the work itself. She pointed out that college printmaking programs are few, and LSU's continuously turns out successful students.

"We are more well-known outside of Louisiana," Koptcho said. "The University of Louisiana at Lafayette also has a great printmaking program. There's also one at Tulane. Louisiana has a great printmaking tradition and continues to grow. For so many Louisiana schools that have printmaking and put out printmakers who do well out in the world, I think people need to know."

Koptcho's own work can be found in 35 permanent collections worldwide. The print in the Glassell exhibition is one in a series of large nature-inspired prints created by using the printmaking lab's etching baths.

"LSU's etching baths can etch a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of copper," she said. "There's no other school that I'm aware of that can do that. It's highly unusual."

Koptcho hasn't yet titled her series. She laid out samples of her work in her office, which also serves as storage for the program's comprehensive archives of students' work.

Some of her pieces were inspired by photographs taken through microscopes, others by nature in her backyard. And dominating the scene is a companion piece to her print in the Glassell show, this one detailing the bark of a river birch. 

"I've always been fascinated by the contradictions in nature and perhaps within ourselves, and I'm drawn to these opposite poles and contradictions," Koptcho said. "But they're inspired by plant forms, and in this case it's a river birch that's in my backyard that continually peels, so it's like a phoenix. It's always reviving itself. So, I enjoy thinking of myself as a comparative biologist. It's not scientific, but I love the natural world, so I see a kinship in human forms and the forms I see in plants and animals."

The printmaking lab also facilitates paper making, which also fuels Koptcho's interest in the natural world.

"I guess a lot of times it's plants, because I'm fascinated with papermaking, and it's plant based," she said. "For me, printmaking is the perfect medium for things I feel about the natural world. And the concepts that I kind of delve into in terms of research."


'Recent Work: LSU School of Art Faculty Exhibition'

WHEN: Through Sunday, Oct. 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

WHERE: LSU's Glassell Gallery in the Shaw Center for the Arts, 100 Lafayette St.

ADMISSION: Free.

INFORMATION: glassellgallery.org.

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com