Never before have I seen such a menagerie in an art gallery.
An iridescent blue peacock, its feathers spreading at least 8 feet, stands in full glory near the entrance to Prairie gallery in Northside. Two other peacocks — one leucistic (white), the other a rare bronze variety — perch on columns, their tails cascading behind them.
A golden pheasant vibrates with colors so pure they could be an artist’s pigments. A bird called a Lady Amherst sports a magnificent red-orange crest and cerulean eye ring. Goliath and atlas beetles, among the largest beetle species, sprawl on red velvet cushions. A coyote sits meekly in a corner, looking eager as a family dog. Above, a spectacular lion skeleton appears ready to pounce.
Artists have long looked to nature for inspiration, but with his exhibition Meddling with Nature Jeremy Johnson takes this tradition to another level. He observes, preserves and presents animals that once flew, ran and roamed about our natural environment. Johnson moves taxidermy out of the natural history museum and into the art gallery by creating an installation that evokes the awe-inspiring world of the Victorian naturalist.
“The Victorian age allowed for unprecedented exploration and discovery at a fever pace,” Johnson says. “The discovery of fantastic birds from distant lands, for instance, was teaching the Victorians as much about themselves as it was about nature.”
Meddling with Nature is on display through Nov. 27.
Read Tamera Lenz Muente's full review here and get show and gallery details.