Slide Slam – from Archive to Art

by Tom Baione on

Gottesman Research Library News

When the Library at the American Museum of Natural History was putting the final touches on its new online image database, Digital Library Special Collections, staff wondered how to let the public know about this rich and exciting new resource. At around this same time, Library Director Tom Baione was speaking with New York-based artists Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman and the three hatched a plan to share the site’s the unique resources and to give the artists an opportunity to discuss how their work has been influenced by the Museum and its vast collections of photographic images.

Left: “Installing models for the Forest Floor exhibit”, 1958.Right: Alexis Rockman’s “Forest Floor”, 1990. (Courtesy the artist and Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York)

Slide Slam – from Archive to Art will be moderated by Library Director Tom Baione and feature archival photographic images from the Library’s collections, juxtaposed with images of both artists’ work: in the studio; in the gallery; and in the field.  The artists will share how images from the wide-ranging new online database of digital images – many never before seen outside the Library – have impacted their art. Attendees will see and hear about the artistic process and get a decidedly fresh perspective on these classic images.

Left:  “Children viewing Polar Bear Group”, 1927. Right: Mark Dion’s “Polar Bear and Toucans (from Amazonas to Svalbard)”, 1990.

Come help celebrate this milestone, see a demonstration of the new site and hear from two renowned artists – both big fans of the Museum. To mark this transition to online image access, each guest will receive a packet of historic 35mm lecture slides from the Library's stock, slides that in the pre-internet era, were provided to educators and researchers for  reference and presentations.

Two men, Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman, at a research field camp in Guyana, 1994. One is looking with a magnifying glass at at glass jar; one is writing in a sketch book.
Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman in their field camp in Guyana, 1994.  photo: Bob Braine.

Visit the Library's Digital Special Collections.


Mark Dion

Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford, Hartford Art  School,  in Connecticut. He also attended the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences.

Read more about Mark Dion


Alexis Rockman

Born in 1962 in New York, where he lives and works, Alexis Rockman has depicted a darkly surreal vision of the collision between civilization and nature -- often apocalyptic scenarios on a monumental scale -- for over three decades. Recent notable museum solo exhibitions include "Alexis Rockman: Manifest Destiny" at the Brooklyn Museum, in 2004, which traveled to several institutions including the Rhode Island School of Design and the Wexner Center. The Smithsonian American Art Museum organized "Alexis Rockman: A Fable for Tomorrow," a major touring survey of his paintings and works on paper in 2010. Concurrent with Rockman's exhibition at Sperone Westwater in 2013, the Drawing Center featured "Drawings from Life of Pi." The artist had collaborated with director Ang Lee on the prize-winning film "Life of Pi," preparing conceptual sketches of a dreamlike journey into the depths of the ocean to serve as visual inspiration.

Read more about Alexis Rockman