Friday, May 31, 2013

NYC Day 3 - American Museum of Natural History

On Saturday, I spent six hours inside this museum. It was HUGE and overflowing with information. Again, like the 9/11 memorial, it was another mentally and emotionally baffling experience.

Years ago I visited the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Austria, which forever made an impression on me. They had every specimen on the planet, ancient artifacts like the Venus of Willendorf, plus gorgeous architecture. Ever since going there I have dreamt of spending my days wandering through similar museums, or longing to go back to Vienna and see it again.

This is Vienna!

The American Museum of Natural History is more contemporary than the one in Vienna, and by far the  most impressive thing about it was the DIORAMAS!!!! Oh my goodness. Because there is too much to cover, like the gigantic collection of dinosaur bones, or the special exhibition on whales, or the hall of Biodiversity....

...I am only going to highlight and emphasize one thing...

the diorama masterpieces!

While the Vienna museum just has taxidermied animals, the New York museum has the animals in full natural settings that create a virtual reality type of illusion. They are worth a pilgrimage to NYC just to see them. Most museum dioramas are totally cheesy or boring, but not these!! These creative portrayals put you right in the scene with the animal. The illusion is so convincing, I just stood in front of each window in TOTAL and COMPLETE AWE. If only I lived in NYC, I would be a lifetime member and come draw here every day...

The compositions make you feel like you are in the scene. Coolest sensation ever. 
Look at the crazy detail in the background! Can you tell where the real rocks
stop and where the painting begins??
If you haven't seen these in person yet, my photos might not convince you of the praise these dioramas deserve. But please hear me when I say, the work involved in creating each one had to be tremendous. From an artistic standpoint, I experienced the same reverential jaw drop that has been evoked from standing in the presence of a Rubens, Vermeer, or John Singer Sargent.

You need to read this article to know why I am so ecstaticLittle Worlds

Having had the opportunity to paint a naturalistic landscape mural for the Nix Nature Center, I know how much research and painstaking detail is involved in creating an environment. That is why when I saw how flawlessly the background transitions into the crafted rocks, grass, dirt, and trees of the diorama, and how perfect the illusion of atmospheric perspective is, and how innovative the placement and perspective of the animals are into the scene, I wanted to fall to my knees.

I had this mad urgency to know who painted these backgrounds? Who designed all the scenes? (and there were a ton of them!) When and how did all this come to be - because it is breathtaking.

That's when I found this book in the giftshop...

Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History

Since it was too big and heavy to lug around NYC, I am ordering it online. A must have in my opinion.

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