Curiosity cabinets (or Wunderkammer) were idiosyncratic collections of specimens, artifacts, and other trinkets that rose to popularity around the 16th-17th century, especially during the time of European exploration of the New World. Because preservation techniques were not refined at the time, the cabinets often featured only parts of plants and animals, adding to their intrigue. These cabinets were obviously to a large degree a symbol of status and wealth, but they also reflected the growing interest in the world overseas, and the far-fetched tales of creatures beyond imagination that were native to these lands. They were reflective of the unique cultural climate of Europe at the time: one foot in the animistic faiths of the past, one foot in the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution and the desire to understand the world through observable things.
Today curiosity cabinets are typically only employed by artists. We are now thoroughly in the world of empirical data, and curiosity cabinets are not especially scientific, often organized more by aesthetics than knowledge. The age of discovery is over. “Cabinet of Banalities” contains photos of North American species, most of which we have probably encountered in the flesh in our everyday lives. There is nothing especially thrilling anymore about a deer crossing your path, or finding a feather on the ground. However, the way these portraits are cropped and presented alongside each other prompts the viewer to find areas of interest, and means of comparison. There may still be some wonder in the ordinary.
Theo in Suburbia
Theo is a white-tailed deer acquired by the Grand Valley State University painting department some years back. Originally a hunting trophy, the hunter entrusted his friend with the taxidermy process, who proceeded to completely bungle it. Frustrated, the man tore out the antlers and sold him for a paltry $50.
Being a taxidermied animal, Theo is both a representative of his species and an individual (especially disfigured as he is). He no longer has a home “appropriate” for taxidermy – either proudly displayed at home, or amongst a replica of his natural habitat. He is both an animal and an object, a strange remnant of our desire to preserve and categorize “the wild”. In staging these photos I wanted to place Theo in an environment not his own, but one that highlights the oddity of encountering taxidermy outside of a very specific context. Though it’s a novelty to encounter a live deer so close to home and our residential structures, it’s perhaps even stranger to find one preserved and mounted.
Couldn't Sleep, Thoughts Were Driving Me Crazy
The act of altering a photograph with drawn elements disrupts its ability to present a believable three-dimensional space. At the same time, we may learn to suspend our disbelief and accept these foreign elements as a new truth or reality. The work in this series explores the perception of photography and drawing with imagery that hovers somewhere between real and imagined, and comic and surreal.