Monday, August 31, 2009


I have hit a point in my life where most of the disparate things I do seem to be coming together in one room. Literally.

It began innocently with a set of 14 drawings that were to emulate a cabinet: 2 large drawings on top acting as doors, 8 small drawings underneath looking like pigeonholes and 4 horizontal images pretending to be drawers. I explained to everyone that it was not going to be a real piece of furniture. It was to hang as a cluster on a wall. Then my friend Dennis said "It must be a cabinet". That changed everything. He built the cabinet and I found myself dealing with 3 dimensions. The cabinet had a huge presence and an interior space that needed filling. My collections made their way onto the shelves and into the drawers. Drawings and books were created specifically for inclusion. It is a project that could take the rest of my life to complete.

One thing leads to another. A second "cabinet" was built honoring insects. It is a triptych with 2 doors that open onto a jewel box of 24 drawings of insects. The reverse side, which is often unseen when the work is backed against a wall, is devoted to camouflaged insects. When I had an idea for a third cabinet, storage became an issue.

The first cabinet of curiosities found a home in our dining room. If I were going to continue making furniture it was going to have to go somewhere. Why not replace everything in the dining room except the table? I have room there for 3 more cabinets before I start investigating the living room.

This project grows in my head every day. I have been acquiring handmade, unusual frames and doing drawings to fill them. They are destined for the walls as well as the shelves in the cabinet. I can see new curtains, a tablecloth and drapes for the cabinets when they are not being viewed. What about hanging things from the ceiling? There are books to be made. Certainly there should be an herbarium. There are so many things to learn and do.

All of this is in the tradition of cabinets of curiosities.

I find very appealing the early ideas of collecting a vast range of objects intermingled and displayed together, rather than being segregated into specific categories. The pursuit was private and often very eccentric, combining objects from the natural sciences, exotic artifacts, historical remnants, works of art, and whatever else might be of interest to the collector in his/her pursuit of knowledge.

Cassiano dal Pozzo, in the 1600's, assembled what he called his "Paper Museum". He commissioned many hundreds of exceptional drawings of natural history subjects that were bound into 23 volumes. When I first heard about this man I felt an immediate connection. I am creating a collection of objects drawn from the Exhibit Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor and the Cranbrook Institute of Science. This blog is an introduction to my Paper Museum.