A public garden & cultural center

Panel Discussion: The Power of Natural History

Wave Hill House

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To mark our exhibition Recapturing the Scenic Wilds, Lukas Rieppel, Assistant Professor of History at Brown University, will present his work on the development of natural history museums, and lead a discussion with three artists exhibiting in Glyndor Gallery. His research into dinosaur displays, like the famous Brontosaurus in the fossil halls of the American Museum of Natural History, reveals that they were a kind of “mixed media sculpture,” which freely combined plaster replicas with real fossils into a synthetic whole. The 19th century natural history display raised important issues of authority—such as the cultural obsession with the predatory power of dinosaurs—and authenticity—such as the balance between theatrical dioramas and scientific fact. Rieppel will touch on the role that cultural elites of the time like Theodore Roosevelt played in the story of the invention of the natural wilderness as we see it today.

Using this presentation as a springboard, Richard Barnes, Hugh Hayden, and Lori Nix will engage in a discussion with Rieppel about how artists capture, process, and display nature now. For years, Barnes has captured with his lens natural history museums under repair or closed—often his images suggest punishment, torture or imprisonment for the taxidermy subjects. Hayden works with animal patterns and coverings, whether fur or feathers, to subvert the narrative of the great American wilderness through references to contemporary urban life. Nix builds and photographs fictive museums of “unnatural history” with a rich sense of humor and invention. We will conclude the afternoon with an in situ tour of the gallery with both artists and Rieppel. For those interested in the intersections of science, art and social history, this event is not to be missed! 

Space is limited; registration is recommended.

Free with admission to the grounds.

Pictured above: Lori Nix, T-Rex, 2010, archival inkjet print 8” x 10,” image courtesy of the artist


Show more:Talks & Lectures