Monday, January 12, 2009

Vaults of fur and feathers

At the suggestion of my friend Mary (who always finds unusual and cool things to do) I signed up for "Drawing from the Collection" at the Museum of Natural History in Roger William's Park.

"The collection" consists of hundreds of taxidermied birds and mammals, even foxes and bears. They're stored in a surreal series of underground rooms behind heavy metal doors under the Museum. At first all that's visible are rolling shelving units, but turning the cranks on each unit reveals treasure aisles of dry, stiff, furred and feathered bodies, fit as close together as a puzzle. The swans on their backs, the owls with wings spread in confrontational poses, the sudden blackness of a mass of vultures. Most are from the mid 1800's, when the back-to-nature movement consisted of killing and stuffing exotic wildlife to display in the parlor.

There were also thousands of shells, fossils, and art objects from all over the world. I had left my camera behind when we were given the introductory tour of the vaults, so I have to be content posting a picture of the specimin I chose, a Barred Owl.

After the vault tour I didn't have much time to draw, but the course goes on for 4 sessions, and I've reserved my objects for the next time— a couple of little screech owls. I had seen a few last year on the wires across the street from my house, but it was always too dark to get a good look at them. This will be my chance to see what used to be a screech owl anyway, and may lead to a painting.
If you're interested, the 4 class session costs $60. and all levels of artistic involvement are welcom. The teacher, Dawn, can help in any number of (dry) mediums, or you can just draw on your own...
Here are the sessions:
Session II: February 7, 14, 21, 28
Session III: March 7, 14, 21, 28
Session IV: April 4, 11, 18, 25
More info at this link

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