artwork > New Bestiary

New Bestiary: Artist’s Notes

In the Middle Ages, monks created bestiaries - compendiums of animals -for the purpose of teaching Christian values or warning against vice. They were not particularly interested in natural studies or in the impulse to catalogue or organize that would later spawn the natural history collections of the Enlightenment.

My interest is in the deeper psychological relationships that we form with the idea of animals, not with those that we live with in the natural world but with those that we imagine, that we dream of or know from childhood stories or myths. These are creatures, beasts, protectors or threats; they are enticing, bewildering, elegant or dark.

In this installation, fairy tale imagery and the history of museum collections come together. Fairy tales charm as strange mixtures of endless potential and brutal fatalism and, of course, are populated with animals. The conceptual basis of early museums lies within the assumption that all things outside of Western understanding are of a common group - curiosities to be housed together by virtue of being different. To current Western though, this isolation of object from context and seemingly random juxtaposition seems naïve yet can still suggest a psychology of wonder. And in these early collections, we also find animals - taken in and displayed as marvelous oddities, in need of analysis and explanation.