JCSM called nine members of the university community to respond objectively and subjectively to art from JCSM’s growing collection of natural history prints. The resulting exhibition is an orchestrated chorus of diverse voices responding to the art, science, and wonder of representing the natural world.
To expand the conversation, Ralph Brown Draughon Library’s Special Collections Department loaned materials from their collections; JCSM appreciates their kind collaboration. We also thank the Auburn University Museum of Natural History in the College of Science and Mathematics for loaning materials from their ornithology collection.
This, That, These, Those
The first important words that I learned living in Italy and learning Italian were “questo”and “quella” which, mean “this (one)” and “that (one)”. Paired with pointing at something you want to eat, they are wonderfully powerful words that can get you almost anything.
What I love about scientific illustrations is how specific they are. They say “this one” and “that one” with such confidence. Their designs are beautiful, stiff, ordered, and generally so unlike what they depict. They often forego expression, leaving no choice but to accept totally and completely what you are being shown. “This (one)” is fact. Though I appreciate the sturdiness of facts and the reliability of recorded language to communicate them from generation to generation, I can’t help but acknowledge the gulf between naming a thing and knowing it. We still don’t know what half the stuff is buried in the Earth, how it got there, who put it there, and if they had a good life, let alone the stuff that ends up in a closet, an attic, a basement, only found when you move out, when someone dies, or when you want to renovate something old for something new. For all the times we found things, dusted them off and labeled them, or the times we sliced a berry to make a diagram of its insides, or killed and mounted a bird with wire to make it look alive so we could study it to make a drawing to tell others about the life and habits of that bird, despite the research, the writing, the museums and libraries, as many times as we’ve done all these things, the orderly curation of things still doesn’t capture the entire picture. We can name a lot more than we know.
In my experience, I hope to balance knowing with naming, abstraction with exactness,research with story. I want to recognize those parts that can’t quite be understood, labeled, or named, those parts that make us incapable of more than pointing and saying:
Andrew Kozlowski, printmaker