Captured: Specimens in Contemporary Art

Sept 6 - Nov 18, 2012

Captured Specimen Show (2)
Captured Specimen Show (1)
Captured Specimen Show (3)
Captured Specimen Show (4)


Specimens In Contemporary Art

September 6 – November 18, 2012

The Bedford Gallery invites you to explore contemporary art that transforms natural materials in new and exciting ways with Captured: Specimens in Contemporary Art.

This exhibition features 25 artists from around the United States and beyond whose work investigates the creative and unexpected dialogues that occur at the intersection of art and scientific exploration. Special highlights of the show include digitally printed wallpaper, created especially for the Bedford gallery by Philadelphia artist Talia Greene, who designs incredible, kaleidoscopic images filled with specimens. The Bedford will also debut several emerging artists including Marcus Kenney and Michael Combs from New Orleans, Kenny and Combs reconfigure taxidermy in ways that look to crafting traditions, conceptual art, and indigenous religious practices. Anne ten Donkelaar, from Utrecht, Holland, will display repaired butterflies and ornate flowers constructed from paper.  The Bedford is also collaborating with Walnut Creek’s Lindsay Museum, which has loaned taxidermy specimens for an installation by local artist Lauren Davies.

“As contemporary artists move beyond the restrictions of traditional media, many are investigating the possibilities offered by organic and discarded materials,” says Bedford curator Carrie Lederer. “Looking to traditions as diverse as taxidermy, specimen boxes, and the cabinet of curiosities, this exhibition will address the changing nature of our relationship with the natural world, and encourage viewers to rethink the creative possibilities of new media.”

Local Artists Include:

Mari Andrews (Emeryville), Jennifer Bain (Oakland), , Joy Broom (Martinez), Lauren Davies (Emeryville), Donald Farnsworth (Oakland), Stephen Galloway (San Francisco), Josie Iselin (San Francisco), Aubrey Learner (San Francisco), Kirk Maxson (San Francisco), Michael McConnell (San Francisco), Michael Mew (Oakland), Susan Middleton (San Francisco), Danielle Schlunegger (Oakland), Esther Traugot (Oakland), Jo Whaley (Bay Area).

Out of Town Artists:

Elaine Bradford (Houston, TX), Catherine Coan (Manhattan Beach, CA), Michael Combs (Greenport, NY), Ben Darby (San Diego. CA), Talia Greene (Philadelphia, PA), Marcus Kenney (Savannah, GA), Shelley Reed (Boston, MA), Anne ten Donkelaar (Netherlands), Andie Thrams (Coloma, CA).

Artists Invent a New World

The artists in Captured consider the role of real and imagined ecologies in the cultural record, craft artificial specimens and contexts, and transform natural materials into ethereal artworks. The works in this show range from art based in science to creations that hail from a far out, fictive, and completely imagined world. The back story on these artists is as intriguing as the work they create:

  • Susan Middleton has devoted her life to documenting plants and wildlife that are often endangered or extinct.
  • Jo Whaley, a former scenic artist in the theater, integrates the insect world into her historic and fictive narratives and portraiture.
  • Danielle Schlunegger, who has immersed herself in the life and work of naturalist Marcus Kelli, has created a fictional archive of natural history specimens based on his documents.
  • Michael McConnell, an animal lover and painter, considers the tradition of taxidermy in his humorous creations made from stuffed animals and artificial logs.

For centuries, artists have looked to the natural world for inspiration. Roman mosaics are filled with examples of Mediterranean flora and fauna. Renaissance Wunderkammers—rooms that preserved rare and exotic species—were prized by scholars and laymen alike. In the nineteenth century, the advent of photography in Europe sparked a scientific and artistic race to document the natural world in detail, while across the pond, the newly established National Parks system in the United States inspired painters to portray the big game animals roaming across the West. 

Today, the natural world continues to play a vital role in our cultural history, and has emerged in recent years as a touchstone for the contemporary arts. We need only think of Damien Hirst’s practice of preserving sharks, zebras, and other invertebrates to recognize the ways in which the strangeness of the natural world appeals to contemporary artists. 

With such diverse approaches to the natural world defining current trends in contemporary art, Captured will showcase some of the most innovative aesthetic and conceptual projects being undertaken today. From the gritty reality of taxidermy, to the imaginary worlds populated with surreal species, the artists represented in this show open our eyes to the possibilities of nature—both seen, unseen, and especially, unreal.