Lynn Jones, an assistant at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, never considered herself a photographer — more a documenter of nature. Now, her close up shot of a dandelion is hanging in the Peabody’s newest exhibit.
This past Friday, the Peabody held an opening reception for over 30 attendees who came to see Jones’ work, along with that of many others, at the new exhibit “Seeing Nature.” The exhibit contains over 30 pieces — including photographs, paintings, sculptures and even cartoons, all depicting the natural world — made entirely by over a dozen members of the Peabody staff. Although many of the Peabody employees featured in the exhibit have created art since they were children, “Seeing Nature” offered many staff members the first opportunity to present their work to a greater audience.
“When they designed the [Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center] building, they designed this space with the intent of showcasing artwork related to natural history,” said Annette Van Aken, exhibit coordinator and West Campus project registrar. “We have had many exhibits of art here before, but this is the first time we have had a show comprised entirely of Peabody staff work.”
Van Aken said that in order to create the exhibit, a small jury was formed to choose the pieces among the staff members’ submissions. She added that while she knew the many talents of the Peabody staff, the caliber of the work greatly impressed her.
Peabody technician Maishe Dickman, who has extensive experience with ceramics, said the exhibit was his first opportunity to showcase the products of his photography hobby. For the past eight years, Dickman has taken one photo from the exact same location at his home on the coast of Milford, Conn. From the spot, Dickman has been able to capture the sunrise, the mating rituals of birds on the water, and even the turbulence of the waves the morning after Hurricane Sandy.
“No view is ever the same,” Dickman said. “These [photos on display] are just three of the hundreds of photos I have taken over the past eight years and will continue to take. There is such beauty in nature — enjoy it.”
Preparator Michael Anderson works closely with crafting the exhibits and dioramas at the Peabody. Anderson, who sculpted the Torosaurus dinosaur statue currently in front of the Peabody entrance, said he was excited by the chance to display “Winged Figure,” a plaster and resin cast influenced by Assyrian bas-reliefs and Stony Creek granite.
The exhibit also incorporates technology, with an untitled piece by Armand Morgan, museum senior instructor, which shows a digital display of mainly landscape sketches in pencil, watercolor, acrylic and ballpoint pen on paper. He said the display gives the viewers the opportunity to zoom in and observe the detail and pen strokes up close.
Reception attendee and head of education and outreach at the Peabody David Heiser said he was not surprised by the talent of his colleagues, many of whom he has known for over 13 years, although some he had never known as visual artists. He added that he was happy to see the diverse range of work that could be effectively shown to the Yale community in an area on campus — the Environmental Science Center — that receives a lot of foot traffic from students and faculty.
Director of public programs Richard Kissel has been cartooning since childhood. Although Kissel has drawn many scientific illustrations in his line of work, he said that he enjoys the challenge of crafting cartoons because it means creating a personality. In one of his two pieces on display, “Type Specimen,” Kissel said he wanted to try to personify the discomfort of a type specimen — the prototypical individual of a species — if it were to have human emotions. Putting a small lizard under a spotlight, Kissel portrays the large emphasis scientists put on one specimen that basically become the definition of a species.
“I think this is a great opportunity to showcase everyone’s talents, and I know there’s a lot of people who didn’t have time to enter work into this show,” Jones said. “I hope that we can really mix it up in the future and get another chance to show more artwork, then people would get to see some of the other talents that have been hiding away in the museum.”
The exhibit will be on display until Dec. 8.