Mark Dion and J. Morgan Puett
April 12 - May 31, 2002
On April 12, "The Ladies Field Club of York," an installation by Mark Dion and J. Morgan Puett will open at the Christine Burgin Gallery. At the center of the installation is a series of photographs by Dion and Puett of an imaginary group of women amateur scientists from the nineteenth century. Made using the exact styling conventions of late Victorian studio portraiture and using contemporary British art curators as models, each tableau represents a particular scientific pursuit popular amongst amateurs at that time: lepidoptery, geology, conchology, botany, etc. Completing the installation are publications, objects, equipment and a variety of period objects and collections related to these pursuits including an extensive collection of handmade19th century books of botanical specimens compiled by amateur botanists.
While a half century later the study of natural history was to become almost exclusively the territory of university educated professionals, at the end of the 19th century, scientific study was a flourishing pastime for legions of amateurs. In many cases it was the findings of these self-educated individuals that were to form the basis of the scientific findings of professionals to follow. In celebrating the contributions of such amateurs, Dion and Puett continue to investigate themes recurrent in both their works independently, discovering and acknowledging the valuable contributions of the now-forgotten individual while emphasising the investigative process as, in and of itself, a creative act. Dion's work, includes such projects as "A Yard of Jungle," 1992 in which a square yard of Brazilian rain forest is removed for analysis or "The Delirium of Alfred Russel Wallace," 1994 in which Dion celebrates a man who, at the same time as Charles Darwin, arrived at a theory of the evolution of life but who, possibly because of his less than professional methods, was destined to obscurity. Puett's career has unfolded at once in the worlds of fashion and architecture as well as fine art. In one of her early projects, Puett's research into working peoples clothes of the eighteenth century led her to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum where she was to discover that no specimens of such clothing exist having been reused as patches, quilts or rags and eventually worn to dust. Puett's ensuing work has been an attempt to reconstruct such missing or uncelebrated histories, in such projects as a fashion design business based in part on the now lost textiles and clothing designs or in her long term projects for the preservation and adaptive reuse of vernacular buildings.
Dion and Puett's other recent collaborations include "'Factory Direct': Nurse Grimm, Night Nurse," for the Arts Center for the Capital Region, Troy NY.
Mark Dion and Morgan Puett
The Ladies Field Club of York
Installation views Christine Burgin, New York