The Space and Mind Of The Melancholy Entomologist
Amber, wood, a chemical powdery sweetness, a tinge of animalistic musky secretion, syrup, sawdust — the strange DNA of the flavor profile is hard to place, or taste on the tip of your tongue, or deep in your nostrils. But the odor is immediately apparent when you walk into The Icehouse Project Space. Located in an authentic, old-fashioned icehouse turned into an installation gallery on the Sharon, Conn., property of painter KK Kozik, the current exhibition by American conceptual artist Mark Dion is immersive and potentially interactive. However, there’s little that invites touch, even though there are plenty of details that invite multiple visits.
Curated by Richard Klein with support from The O’Grady Foundation, an independent private foundation established in Connecticut by Thomas and Kathleen O’Grady, and The Sharon Land Trust, Dion’s “Field Station for the Melancholy Entomologist” sees the cheeky cultural observer once again examining the mix of clinical study and scientific chaos. This is man’s academic mind meets the unwieldy natural world. Tattered hardbacks on nymphs, beetles, katydids, and crickets line a bookshelf that also houses several orange pharmaceutical tubes — a prescription for minocycline made out to Dion, used to treat skin infections. Brown glass chemical jars clutter the office table tops and brilliant cobalt blue posters are illustrated with the features of the Sirex woodwasp and the hemlock wooly adelgid, both pesky invasive species harmful to North American trees.
A short story by Klein accompanies the piece, characterizing the unnamed entomologist as a lonely figure lost in the neglected study of the declining insect population which has been ravaged by chemical and light pollution, pesticides and habitat loss. At a dinner party of unscientific minds in Connecticut, he fails to enliven the WASPs with his discoveries on the humble fly’s critical role in the cycle of pollination.
Klein writes, “The guests were only interested in talking about butterflies… butterflies are the sexy insects that everyone loves due to their bright colors and beautiful patterns.”
Dion’s rooms, characterized by the haunted arrangement of items from a steward not present but deeply felt through their human mess, have appeared in the Tate Gallery in London, and The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 in New York City. The subject of a contemporary artist retrospective published by Phaidon in 1997, the volume captures his installations in the 1990s, in full swing of a “green art” period, including his time sourcing items from Venezuela’s Orinoco River for “On Tropical Nature,” featuring field glasses, insect pins, killing jars, and yes, a “sexy” butterfly collection.