Artist Rosamond Purcell Lecture: “Vegetable Lambs and Elephant Birds: Classifying the In-Between”

Posted December 3rd, 2009 at 2:15 pm.

Artist Rosamond Purcell, whose extraordinary photographs and installations of natural-history specimens have been featured in numerous books and exhibitions that explore the interaction of art and science, will speak at Bryn Mawr on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Carpenter Library 21.

The talk, titled “Vegetable Lambs and Elephant Birds: Classifying the In-Between,” will be  followed by a reception and viewing of the exhibition Darwin’s Ancestors: Tracing the Origins of the “Origin of Species” in the Rare Book Room of Canaday Library.

The exhibition will remain open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the Rare Book Room, through February. Both the lecture and exhibition are sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Purcell’s work includes three books done in collaboration with the late Stephen Jay Gould, and an exhibition, Two Rooms, which featured a reconstruction of a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities. Her most recent book is Egg and Nest.

Some reoccurring themes in Purcell’s work include the drive to collect and classify, the decay of objects and beings, and the fluid boundaries between art and science. Her work has included numerous examinations of natural-history collections, photographs of disintegrating game dice in Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck with Ricky Jay, an exploration of a junkyard belonging to an eccentric antiques dealer for Owls Head, and a re-creation the cabinet of curiosities of the 17th-century Danish scholar Ole Worm. Running throughout these works is the artist’s interest in personal and scientific collections and in the choices of display and categorization  manifested in them.

The documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has written, ‘Rosamond Purcell is one of the great photographers. She has captured the history of objects by photographing them in romantic decline—books scourged by worms, petrified food-stuffs, biological specimens gone wrong, the inexorable entropic winding down of everything.'”

For more information about the lecture and exhibition, contact the Library’s Special Collections Department at (610) 526-6576 or at

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