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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Past Exhibitions


19 March – 30 June 2015

This exhibition featured drawings and watercolors of bird nests with a focus on the natural and man-made materials incorporated into these architectural structures. Photographs of forest understory transported the viewer between the landscape and the ephemeral artifacts that signified the remains of a cycle of building, incubating, nesting and fledging. The featured artists were Sue Abramson, Wendy Brockman, David Morrison and Kate Nessler. The creators of these drawings and watercolors of bird nests and photographs of transitional landscapes were inspired by the relationship of the nest to time, place, music and architecture. Each artist imbued the structures and the materials used and the locations and environments where built with their individual insight and perspective. Also included in the exhibition were a selection of birds, nests and eggs on loan from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Pittsburgh artist Sue Abramson's photographs of the Frick Park woodlands were a response to the raw materials in nests and the extraordinary visual chaos of these habitats. Minnesota artist Wendy Brockman's watercolors of nests, eggs, feathers and plant materials were rich with nuance and complexity and spoke of time and place. Indiana artist David Morrison's colored pencil drawings were an exploration of the issues of existence, regeneration and obsessiveness through his examination of the layers of natural and found objects that composed the architectural structures of nests. Arkansas artist Kate Nessler's watercolors were expressive of symphonic movements, and they reflected the intrinsically creative and practical use of disparate materials that were woven to create a space of strength and balance essential for survival.

Opening reception

The opening reception on 19 March (5–7 p.m.) was open to the public. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. each of the four artists introduced their work in the Elements exhibition. This was an opportunity to meet all of the artists.

Talk one-on-one with the artists

On Friday, 20 March, 10 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m., Abramson, Brockman and Nessler were available to discuss their concepts and processes and displayed their materials, and Brockman also demonstrated her painting technique. This event was free and open to the public.

Open House 2015

Our annual Open House on Sunday, 28 June (1:00–4:30 p.m.) included the talk "Nest structures of North American birds and the materials used in their creation" (1:30–2:30 p.m.) by Patrick McShea, program officer and educator, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and tours of the Elements exhibition and the reading room (2:30–4:00 p.m.). This event was free and open to the public.

Cabinet of curiosities

The Cabinet of curiosities in the Hunt Institute lobby displayed bird illustrations from the Library's rich collection of natural history and art books, including Mark Catesby's (1683–1749) exquisite folio, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, the author, 1731), and works by microscopist Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694), natural historian the Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) and the artist George Brookshaw (1751–1823).

Selected Artworks

[+] Click to enlarge