Cabinets of Curiosity, 2013

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BMO Children's Gallery, Art Gallery of Alberta
Mixed media installation Dimensions: 10' x 32' 3" x 16' 3"

I have created a room that has all the flavour of a 17th Century Wunder Kammer. This exhibit mirrors the obsessive collectors of the next two centuries who were to put together thrilling and exotic Victorian displays filled with the natural wonders of the world. Those collections were very subjective and some of the artifacts included displays that were grotesque or macabre in nature. As new discoveries were made in the world of science and medicine, examples found a place in these exhibits as well. The process of creating mélanges of unusual materials started through the passion of one collector and the acquisition of collections of oddities made by others. Organizing and classifying specimens for display could absorb the individual collector for a lifetime.

I grew up by the ocean in eastern Australia and my passion for collecting started in childhood and has continued throughout my travels and the last 40 years in Edmonton. Cabinets of Curiosity has given me a chance to fulfill own compulsion and make some imaginary discoveries through the re-interpretation of my own collections. My lifelong interests have centered around the oceans of my childhood and the prairies of Alberta, focusing especially on the rural land and the river located near my home.

One of my themes was developed by looking at ocean life though the creation of an aquarium with a deep-sea diver searching for the wonders of the oceans - seaweed, shells, fish, sea fans, corals, and a jumble of flotsam and jetsam often found washed up on beaches. As the children look into the aquarium they make chalk drawings of the objects inside the tank on the walls outside.

Focusing on the natural and man made world of Alberta complete the display. The walls and ceiling are filled with objects seen in unusual combination with whimsical and exotic oddities. Child viewers are able to take part in discovering the skeletal structure of familiar animals as well as identifying objects through touch and feel in the scientific glove compartments. Printed images of complete plants, trees and animals will be scattered throughout the cabinet to help identify and compliment knowledge gained by seeing the many displays of fragments and bits and pieces.

The overall experience is a voyage of sensual and visual discovery. Dim lighting creates the ambience with specific displays given special focus. The children should be ready to enter this world a little scared and, as their eyes adjust to the light be ready for a parlour filled with surprises.


photo: Glenbow Museum


photo: Glenbow Museum
photo: Glenbow Museum












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