Given the nature of my work, the easiest way to transport it was to rent a truck and drive the work to the site. With the help of Paul Amenta, we loaded the truck and will drive the almost 800 miles from New York City to Grand Rapids.
Much like Spire, most of my work will be done onsite in Grand Rapids. Prior to my departure, I prepared some final notes and sketches as to how I envision Habitat.
To get a further grasp on habitat dioramas, I read Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History (Abrams, 2006) by Stephen Christopher Quinn.
As I mentioned before, Louis Daguerre (famous for the daguerreotype process of photography) invented the diorama in 1822. Since then, museums have been using the technique of combining two and three dimensional elements to create “virtual realities.”
To create this effect, there are three main components to the classical habitat dioramas –
- the taxidermy specimens
- the foreground which includes all three-dimensional elements
- curved background painting
All these combined creates the illusion of distance and offer a window into an environment inhabited by wild animals. Check out a video featuring Stephen Christopher Quinn speaking about the history of the habitat dioramas here.
When the Grand Rapids Public Museum was relocated from 54 Jefferson in 1994, they decided to take some of the taxidermied animals and leave some behind. In the following archival images (of which I took snapshots) you can see the original specimens in their respective dioramas.
In preparation of my installation of Habitat, I have gone through the archives of the Grand Rapids Public Museum at 54 Jefferson SE and found the original blueprints. Here, you can see the how the Mammal Hall was mapped out.
I am very excited about a new and very different project that I am creating with thanks to Paul Amenta and Tom Clinton of SiTE:LAB in Grand Rapids, MI for the invitation to do a site-specific installation.
Much like last year, SiTE:LAB has been given access to an abandoned building in Grand Rapids with the intent to fill the building with artworks from about 20 different artists from all over the country and the world. This year, the building is the historic Grand Rapids Public Museum built in the late 1930s.
My piece, Habitat, will encompass the Mammal Hall which houses over 20 dioramas of taxidermied animals in their respective habitats. Within each diorama, I will create an architectural intervention, exploring what happens when a foreign object intrudes these fabricated “virtual” spaces first created by Louis Daguerre in 1822.