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Feb. 1, 2008
Contact: Bill Woodard, Spencer Museum of Art, (785) 864-0142.

Art installation at Spooner Hall examines nature, culture

LAWRENCE — Biology meets the consumer ecosystem in the art installation “Niche: Nature morte in the simulated garden,” which has a public opening reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the renovated main floor of Spooner Hall on the University of Kansas campus.

The exhibition will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday beginning Feb. 12. Admission is free.

“Niche” was created by artists Marguerite Perret, a mixed-media artist and assistant professor of design at Washburn University in Topeka, and Bruce Scherting, director of exhibits and design at KU’s Natural History Museum, in collaboration with Betsy Knabe Roe, a fiber-based installation artist and a visiting professor at Washburn. They recently collaborated on a multiyear interactive installation at the Wichita Art Museum titled “Prairie Earth.”

Images of the tree of life — as a symbolic construct and as an illustration of natural selection — pervade the installation. The result is suggestive of a strange fairy tale where the beautiful and the peculiar occupy the same space.

“The word niche refers to an organism’s place in a biological network and also to a product’s place in what marketing professionals sometimes call the consumer ecosystem,” said Perret. “The work on display is a hybrid of consumer culture and the natural world.”

“Niche: Nature morte in the simulated garden” is made possible by a gift to KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities from Elizabeth Schultz, KU professor emerita of English. The exhibition is sponsored by the Commons, a partnership between the Spencer Museum of Art, the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.

“In Marguerite’s installations, she merges the effects on nature of our cultural norms and practices with immediately recognizable and resonant artistic forms,” said Jordan Yochim, acting director of the Commons. “You experience her work and catch yourself admiring a terrible beauty. Dr. Schultz’s generosity made it possible to expand and advance Marguerite’s expression. Marguerite, Bruce and Betsy have created an installation that elevates while it provokes, delights as it unnerves.”

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