The Artist in His Museum (self-portrait, 1822)
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
I first heard of Peale, his museum and the term “Cabinet of Curiosities” while attending museum education classes at the University of North Texas in 2001. I was intrigued by this concept of a collection of art and natural objects of which the owner invites viewers to make what associations they may among seemingly unrelated items. This may have been when I acquired this post card that has been in my box of assorted papers for a while.
I didn’t think much more of it until this past spring while attending a lecture on James Audubon when the lecturer showed this exact same photo to us. And I thought, “that’s what my next piece will be…my own little “cabinet of curiosities.”
I started collecting objects specifically for this project. My only purchase was the beaver skull, which I bought in Ouray, Colorado. I had all the little protective cases that were given to me by my friend Miriam.
Other items include a dead bee I found in a stone cabin in northern Idaho. A dead scorpion I found at my fathers memorial service. A piece of Amber (fossilized tree resin) given to me by my sister) A “skeleton” of a leaf found on a hike in Eugene, Oregon, a stone from New Zealand given to me by my friends Kimberley and Bruce, and wood and pine needles and wasp nests found in my own back yard.
I was going to put everything in a small curio cabinet I have with a glass door but it looked too new. Then I tried this old handmade wooden box, I liked it and decided to mimic the drapery in the post card and add the tassel to the bottom making it into a hanging piece instead of one that sits on a table.
So if someone had to ask me how long did this take you to make I would have to say it took 10 years from inception to completion.