James Prosek: Un-Natural History exhibition extended through January 27, 2012



Bellarmine Museum of Art,
Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Image: Prosek's CockatoolDue to popular demand, Fairfield University's Bellarmine Museum of Art has extended its current exhibition James Prosek: Un-Natural History through Friday, January 27, 2012. The exhibition is the most-visited show ever mounted by the museum, as it has been drawing record-breaking crowds since it opened in the fall. The exhibition features many new works by Mr. Prosek, a resident of Easton, CT, including some he executed specifically for this exhibition. The majority of the nearly twenty paintings on view are watercolors. Complementing these paintings are several taxidermied specimens, mediated by the artist, that "speak" to their two-dimensional counterparts, installed in close proximity. Exhibition catalogues with contributed essays by Dr. Jill Deupi, Bellarmine Museum Director and Assistant Professor of Art History, Dr. Brian Walker, Associate Professor of Biology, and Dr. Scott Lacy, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, are available at the museum and the Fairfield University Bookstore, 1499 Post Road, Fairfield for $10.00 per copy.

James Prosek: Un-Natural History, made possible, in part, through the generous support of Brody Wilkinson PC, a Southport, Connecticut, law firm, features a number of works never before displayed publicly, such as the artist's monumental watercolor of a sailfish, painted to scale at more than 8' in length. The exhibition also debuts several new pieces Prosek created specifically for this show, including a taxidermied fox, complete with bird wings and custom-made wax flowers, and a meticulously rendered cockatiel, whose extravagant rose-hued plumage is replaced in areas in with tools from a Swiss Army knife.

"In Un-Natural History, James Prosek questions the accepted norms by proposing new and unusual ways for considering the world around us," said Bellarmine Museum Director Jill Deupi, J.D., Ph.D. "Through his renderings of specimens, both real and imagined, the artist invites the viewer to reflect on the ways Western man has chosen to organize the natural world and to question what these systems say about our culture, our priorities and our values. He encourages us, with subtle persistence, to think about what it means to impose a name on an object or, indeed, a living creature, and how such actions create powerful hierarchies in the inter-connected realms of society, politics and economics."

James Prosek's prowess as an artist and an intellectual is matched by his talent as an author and wordsmith. His first book, Trout: an Illustrated History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), featured seventy of his own watercolor paintings of the trout of North America and established his reputation as a naturalist and a remarkably gifted artist. His most recent book, Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish (HarperCollins, 2010), a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, explores both the biological complexities and the prominent role this remarkable fish continues to play in native lore and creation myths amongst traditional peoples such as New Zealand's Maori. He has also authored several books for young children and adolescents, including Bird, Butterfly, Eel (Simon & Schuster, 2009) and The Day My Mother Left (Simon & Schuster, 2007), and has written for The New York Times and National Geographic Magazine.

 "From interests in the medieval world's conflation of the real and the imagined, to Twenty-First Century efforts to save the earth's dying ecosystems, James Prosek brings together the objectivity of a scientist with the lyricism of a poet," said Richard Klein, Exhibition Director at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT. "His work encapsulates the history of culture's ongoing efforts to understand and interpret the living world.

The artist made his authorial debut at age nineteen while still an undergraduate at Yale University. It was also at Yale that he laid the groundwork for his Peabody-award winning documentary film, The Complete Angler (2003) that retraces the footsteps of the seventeenth-century angler Izaak Walton, whose book of the same name provided a blueprint for the artist's ambitious senior thesis. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r2nRfnpWxw).

It is his capacity to look simultaneously at fact and folklore, science and myth, life and death that distinguishes Mr. Prosek as a writer and artist, as well as cinematographer. It is this same conflation of unusual talents and seemingly opposed interests that makes his exhibition at the Bellarmine so compelling. "James Prosek belongs in the pantheon of great American nature artists," observed Anne Fadiman, renowned author, editor and professor of English at Yale. "But unlike most of them, he's also a fine writer and an original thinker. In both his painting and his prose, he doesn't just observe; he tweaks, plays, and, in effect, enters into dialogues with his subjects."

James Prosek's works have been featured in a number of museums and galleries both in the U.S. and abroad, including the d.u.m.b.o. arts center (Brooklyn, NY), the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, CT), Yale's Whitney Humanities Center (New Haven, CT) and the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.

The Bellarmine Museum of Art is located in Bellarmine Hall on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 N. Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Admission is free. The museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum will be closed from December 22, 2011 - January 4, 2012. Visit www.fairfield.edu/museum, or call (203) 254-4000, ext. 4046.

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Media Contact: Mike Horyczun, (203) 254-4000 ext. 2647, mhoryczun@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 19, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 151