I saw the elephants image last weekend in the Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography and Specimens exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins (which I really liked) and was not surprised to find out that this artist has a connection to the Kansas City area! It’s been really interesting to me since I moved here a few months ago how much Kansas/Missouri-artist-made artwork appears in The Spencer Museum of Art, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  This intrigues me because there are a lot of Denver artists, yet I always thought the Denver Art Museum featured work by only a handful of local artists.

This series was interesting for me to look at. I’ve photographed a lot in museums of nature and science and places like Bass Pro and Cabela’s, and I love the KU Natural History Museum, an admittedly large part of why I moved to Lawrence.  And as with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, being able to place the display/diorama in the photograph has always disenchanted me a little.  Perhaps work like this depends on the fact that, like looking at taxidermy itself in museums or even animals in zoos, the viewer has never been here before and has never seen this before, and beyond that has never seen this kind of animal before up close, has never been able to see this animal engaging in this behavior before (as well as it depends on some interesting commentary about constructed/perceived reality, how Americans/humans romanticize and experience or do not experience nature, objectifying and looking at the animal the way ones does a photograph, and more).

I also wonder if other artists feel a conflict regarding who the “original artist” is–the taxidermist and/or the display artist  (who’ve done a lot of (physical) work and created the composition with intention) or the photographer (or draftsman or painter who uses the scene as a reference)?  I think this is why the elephants image is one I respond to most. It’s more than a picture of a scene.  It presents itself as being made in the wild, in nature, the animals looking up at the “sky,” one being (well-)painted, the others engaging in aggression or play, etc.

Oh, I just realized I’m pretty sure I saw this person speak at SPE last fall! Not about this work at all though. Small world.

Visit artist's site: colby-sempek.com

Found via: SPE Website