Muses

These three works - painted in black and gold sumi ink, cut up and collaged, are examinations of the Field Museum’s Muse sculptures and the role of museums in today’s landscape. They were installed as part of gallery show called Field Work III at Co-Prosperity Sphere in Chicago, IL in May 2017.

In the 1918 Annual Report to the Field Museum’s Board of Trustees, Charles Over Cornelius described the museum’s new home as “visible in white majesty from far upon the nearby lake.”

Henry Herring's four Muse sculptures slated to adorn the corners of the entry hall were meant to embody grander. The whole neoclassical structure; its bright marble rising from the muddy outcropping, served to enforce this image. The faces of Record, Research, Science and Dissemination of Knowledge, so named by Herring, are indeed strong and stern, but equally, they are passive. Still, passive females - the way nearly all allegorical sculptures of that era were, whether representing liberty, justice or honor.

But a museum is not a still nor a quiet place, the way taxonomy itself is neither still nor quiet, but rather a squirming chaotic organism, changing and adapting; taking things in and spitting things out — clamoring towards perfection in a ceaseless struggle.

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Copyright © Kelsey Keaton 2018.