Veiled Taxonomies

Veiled Taxonomies is an ongoing project about the fractious relationship humans have with the preservation and interpretation of nature. Employing the book as the center of this investigation, artist Betsy Stirratt examines how plants, animals, and humans are represented in museums and collections, and how they are preserved, classified and displayed. 

This series exhibits photographs taken while visiting natural history and medical museums in Europe and the US. Such curated settings reveal subtle information about the systematic preservation of organic remains— tangibility, placement and labeling matter greatly in these environments. The combined images of remains, sometimes intact, sometimes decaying, and the accompanying explanations hint at questions about our regard for life and how it is shown, interpreted, preserved and valued. 

The context and framework of the exhibition chosen by collectors/curators helps to shape our responses, which can sometimes be emotional, even visceral. These settings can affect not only how we view nature but can shape our relationship to it. Veiled Taxonomies tells a multi-layered story of our curiosity about the natural world but also about our attempts to order it in the face of extreme climate change.

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About the Artist

Betsy Stirratt, a native of New Orleans, has exhibited her paintings, books, objects and installations widely since 1983. She has had solo exhibitions at The Mütter Museum, the International Museum of Surgical Science and galleries and museums in Chicago, Nashville and Cincinnati. Her work has been included in group exhibits at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, White Columns and Art in General among many others. She is the recipient of a Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and awards from the Indiana Arts Commission and the American Craft Council.

Stirratt is Founding Director of the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University in Bloomington. She has curated the exhibits Personal: Selections from the Robert J. Shiffler Collection, Human Nature, and more recently State of Nature: Picturing Indiana Biodiversity. She has edited several books and catalogues, including [Re]Imagining Science, Indiana University Press (2017), Framing Beauty: Intimate Visions, Grunwald Gallery, Indiana University (2017), Human Nature, School of Fine Arts Gallery, Indiana University (2007), Les Vérités du Sexe, Editions Marval, Paris, France (French, German editions, 2003) and Feminine Persuasion: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN (2003).

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