on “Applied Science”
exhibition Applied Science observes
and questions our scientific and cultural context. The project
explores the unstable space of decoration and display of plant
and animal specimens. The work has developed from photographic
material that was taken from natural history specimens and displays
in various public, scientific, and warehoused collections. The
concerns are with the ways we make art and understand the natural
world, what we identify as knowledge, and how we organize, store,
and represent information.
natural history diorama, as a form of display and public
education, first developed in Sweden and in North America, but
it echoes the pedagogical practice of 18th Century
Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. Linnaeus’ life work represents
a historical transition to modern systematic scientific practice.
In Linné’s preserved home outside of Uppsala there
is evidence of other forms of understanding of the natural world.
These other forms are closer to artistic practices of observation
and representation. The work in Applied Science is based
on natural history collections in Helsinki and Turku in Finland,
Stockholm Sweden, Kassel and Berlin, Germany, and also in Winnipeg,
Manitoba and Chatham Ontario. An exotic collection of safari animals
stored in a warehouse in Chatham Ontario marked the beginning
of this body of work (“In between”) and collections
in Kassel and Berlin were the most recently collected (“Holding
death”). Similarities and differences in each collection
expand my thoughts and my interests, proving again and again,
what Levy Straus said: “Animals are good to think with.”
exhibition is made up of two overlapping installations, Inside
the Trophy Room and No Place.
oil paintings on linen Inside the Trophy Room
hang like curtains, referencing multiple histories, including
the history of oil painting and the history of western science.
The panels are positioned to mimic the multiple curtains of a
theatre; the gazes of the animal subjects emphasize a proscenium
theatre space. As I worked on this group of paintings
the decorative elements became increasingly important. I experimented
with the Iris wallpaper pattern developed by William
Morris (News from Nowhere, 1890). As I moved my arm repeatedly
over his interlocking shapes and curves, I gained tremendous admiration
and pleasure from the intelligence of their formulation. The other
wallpaper pattern used as a layer in some of the works is a pattern
based on the walls of prints created by the botanist Linnaeus
in his preserved home in Hammerby, outside of Uppsala in Sweden.
Recent painted works on paper are installed Inside
the Trophy Room and represent the relationships
found in museum diorama and display.
translucent photographic prints that make up the No
Place installation consider the in between
space of nature and of art. These layered images explore individual
sites of storage and display. Each one exposes the ironies of
popular natural science, themes of life and death and representation.
Gold, January 2008
. . .
Inc: Leesa Bringas, Christine Burchnall; Installation support:
Darren Bonnici, Lisa Baggio; framing: Nancy Johns; production:
Whistle Stop Larry, Parry Sound; delivery and studio mate: A.G.
Smith; trophy mounts: Trudy Baumeister; access to collections:
Gunilla Florby; Carl Lavoy; Eike Winckler, Ilene Winckler; funding:,
Ontario Arts Council, University of Windsor; representation: CARFAC
Ontario, CARCC; authors: J.Berger, M. Foucault, A.S.Byatt, K.Wonders,
H. Olson; W. Benjamin, C.L. Strauss, K. Allen; scientists: D.Haffner;
C. Linné; natural history collections: University of Turku
BioLogia and Helsinki (Finland), Uppsala, Hammerby, and Stockholm
(Sweden), Tring and London (England); Kassel and Berlin (Germany);
Chatham Ontario and Winnipeg Manitoba (Canada); designs and paintings:
W. Morris, IKEA, C. W. Peale . . .
Thank you . . .