Nature, history, animals, specimens and collections, what do they reveal? Is it possible to understand the ‘truth’ or ‘essence’ of living matter through recording and observing? Diane Stemper is an artist deeply curious about the world of living organisms that surround her and fascinated by collections that organize, categorize, preserve and display oddities and specimens. Her books and artwork have long focused on naturalist subjects and on specimens of a sort: insects, clouds, corn, dust, and bacteria. The works in Sample Close at Hand reference Darwin, medical collections, and biological studies, codified in a series of prints and artist books, and books built into petri dishes. The ‘dish’ references a culture of microorganisms and serves as a metaphor for the cultural context of science and the connection between our relationship with nature and the scientific discoveries that further deepen or exploit our knowledge; in the petri dishes Stemper builds circular artist books, informed by the petri dish’s intended function, which fit into and emerge out of a dish. Stemper uses mixed media and combine linoleum prints; archival inkjet prints; found and altered text; colored pencil; pen & ink drawing; maps and actual natural materials relevant to the content of the books.
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