This year promises to be a little bit different. We’re looking at the Museum and its collections from a new point of view – through the eyes of artists, photographers and writers. We’re presenting different ‘visions’ of the natural world in a series we’ve called Visions of Nature. With a title borrowed from John Ruskin, there’s a definite nod to our Pre-Raphaelite roots, but there will be plenty of opportunities for an up-to the minute look at natural history, too. Here’s a few more details about what we’re planning…
Kicking off this year’s exhibition programme will be a brand new show from artist Kurt Jackson. You may know his dramatic landscapes or even his work as artist in residence at Glastonbury, but this time, insects are the focus for his brush, pencil and chisel.
In Bees (and the odd wasp) in my bonnet, we’re bringing together Jackson’s beautiful paintings, sculptures and sketches with specimens from the Museum’s enormous bee collection and the latest contemporary research into bee population decline.
At the moment we’re choosing which specimens to include and are eagerly looking forward to a trip down to Kurt Jackson’s home in Cornwall to collect the artworks. With each bee pinned in place and every last painting hung perfectly, we’ll be opening the exhibition on Friday 18th March. There are lots of exciting events focussed around bees, too – including a special tour and talk by Jackson himself and a workshop run by a local beekeeper that describes how a bee colony changes over the course of a year. You can book a place on these and more here.
Next up will be Microsculpture; The insect photography of Levon Biss. This really will make you see insects in a different light, with 10mm specimens blown up to 3m prints, all on display in the Museum court. Over the last couple of years, Levon, who is famous for dramatic photographic portraits of sports, music and film stars, has been working with James in our Life Collections team to select bizarre and beautiful insects. The result is a collection of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraiture that celebrates the amazing diversity of the insects and their morphology.
The final third of the year will be centred around a literary vision of nature. We’ll be collaborating with some of our favourite natural history writers from the worlds of fact and fiction to offer an exciting programme of talks, debates and workshops. Key to this part of the year will be our poets in residence. Throughout 2016, three poets, John Barnie, Steven Matthews, and Kelley Swain, will be working alongside staff in our collections and out in the Museum itself to gain inspiration for their writing.
In the autumn, they will take part in a number of events and activities to present their work, and will be publishing a small anthology at the end of the year.
With plenty of other ideas in the mix, including exhibitions by Oxfordshire artists and photographers exploring the natural world and even a possible comedic vision of nature, there’s far too much to include here. So, there’s a dedicated Visions of Nature site, where you can find out about the poets’ latest inspiration, which exhibitions are opening soon, and what events you can sign up for. An exciting year ahead!