As a maker of historical dioramas for museums such as the Natural History Museum in New York, artist Joianne Bittle (NY) is aware of the transportive power of these stage-like sets that can create an illusion of both space and time. The work presented in this exhibition, Preserving Mass Extinction, is part of her ongoing series of Portable Landscapes that repositions dioramas as contemporary art and subverts their traditional use as documentation of the past.
Using an old horse trailer as the starting point of her piece, Bittle will remake the trailer’s interior space as a dioramic representation of the prehistoric Wisconsin Great Lakes Basin. Over time under geothermal conditions, minerals such as iron pyrite (“fool’s gold”), galena, and copper pyrite (peacock ore) have covered the remains of the basin’s prehistoric animal lifeforms, transforming them into fossils with a golden luster. Featuring a painted backdrop with inset lights and cast and painted shimmering three-dimensional rock and fossil forms, the scene will depict an extinct earth environment presented as a futuristic outer-space scene. As such, it is both a historical landscape and an imagined futurescape—presenting a point of view the dioramic form rarely explores.