Audubon Explored Through Radical Naturalism at Auburn University Art Museum
The first in an emerging series, “Radical Naturalism – Tommy Coleman: A New Nature and my Problem With the Vessel”, is presented at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts at Auburn University until Sunday July 26.
The inaugural exhibition presents new drawings and sculptures by Coleman and a sculptural configuration of 16 Audubon prints. Auburn Louise Hauss and David Brent Miller Audubon Collection includes 120 prints from “The Double Elephant Folio” publication “Birds of America” and the three-volume set of “Vivaporous Quadrupeds of North America”.
Through “radical naturalism,” the museum invites contemporary artists inspired by the natural world to seek out the university’s Audubon collection and others across campus to engage, question, and critique. John James Audubonthe evolution of inheritance. The 19th century artist dedicated his life to hunting and trapping North American specimens, documenting the species of birds, insects and plants he encountered.
Centuries distant from Audubon, Florida-born interdisciplinary artist Coleman observes and depicts the complex relationships between plants, animals and humans in the wetlands of his home state, taking into account the environment fragile and pushing the understanding of ‘native’ and ‘invasive’.
“What happens when something or someone, once considered invasive, becomes native, or vice versa?” said Aaron Levi Garvey, director of curatorial affairs for Janet L. Nolan at the museum. “These meanings can be ecological, physiological or social: a weed in your garden, elephant ears overtaking a fence, unwanted thoughts – even unexpected visitors.”
Through Coleman’s investigation, he examined how Audubon could be seen as pervasive both as an artist and as an individual.
“While John James Audubon produced scientific interpretations of nature as an ideal, he often left out the most basic details of his process, his personal apprehensions and his misbehaviors,” Coleman said.
“Audubon’s prints, while immaculate specimens of intaglio printing and hand coloring, are also specimens of histories and sciences that are no longer valid or accurate. What interests me is the more in these engravings are the “incorrect” moments, the stories we left behind and the moments when we have the opportunity to see the work of an “artist-naturalist” become moments of sincere artistic decision .
Coleman said his contribution to the show brings together several works spanning 15 years. ” Seedbed,“a full-size spruce bed frame with fragrant ryegrass and an earthen mattress, is an interactive object. Visitors to the museum are invited to lie down or sit on the bed, creating an experience reminiscent of the outdoor adventure and cloud watching.
Additional works include soundscapes produced by Coleman and Baltimore musician Austin Bey, creating an experience of two opposing native and invasive faunas. Garvey said Audubon’s works are installed as sculptural assemblages instead of scientific illustrations, encouraging visitors to reconsider the content, meanings and story presented.
“I want viewers to slow down; I want people to spend more time in this space so they can see (Audubon’s) works as vehicles for metaphor and self-reflection,” Coleman said. “How did we participate in affecting this nature, for better or for worse?
Coleman is scheduled to tour campus at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 24 in the museum’s auditorium, where he will join Garvey in conversation. The in-person program will air on Facebook and YouTube, @thejulemuseum, with Coleman and Garvey appearing in an upcoming episode of Podcast Jule Museum with the faculty of Auburn. A virtual tour of the gallery is available on the museum website.
“Radical Naturalism” continues through the 2022-23 academic years, with other contemporary artists selected to guest curate and make their debuts. A future episode will highlight Manon Bellettewhose research and practice are centered on the extraction of scents from historical areas affected by coastal erosion.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary of the arts and engagement in 2023, the Jule Collins Smith Museum is located at 901 S. College St. Collection highlights include Mid-20th Century American Modernism, Mexican Modernism, Prints and contemporary photographs, works on paper representing the South, ceramics and visionary art of the South.
Admission to the museum is free but donations are welcome. For more information, visit jcsm.auburn.edu.
This story originally appeared on Auburn University website.