Chazen Museum of Art


Martha Glowacki’s Natural History, Observations and Reflections

March 3 to May 14 | Leslie and Johanna Garfield Galleries

March 3 through May 14, 2017

Martha Glowacki’s Natural History, Observations and Reflections

Martha Glowacki’s Natural History, Observations and Reflections presents sculpture and installations that concern human observation and description of the natural world. In this exhibition, Glowacki is particularly interested in the history of science and scientific illustration.

The exhibition is divided into four parts. A cabinet of curiosities, titled What Every Woman Ought to Know, has drawers filled with objects and etched images that draw from nineteenth-century books on women’s deportment. A second group of artworks references the history of plant collecting and physiology. This area includes three metal laboratory tables with tableaus of tools and constructed plant forms inspired by eigtheenth century records of experiments to determine whether plants grow towards the light. Another area of the exhibition is an installation inspired by the nineteenth-century French physiologist Étienne Jules Marey, who developed a gun camera and sensitive recording devices to analyze the physical aspects of human and animal movement. Glowacki’s installation imagines a scene from Marey’s laboratory. In the fourth part of the exhibit viewers can look at a group of hanging objects through a camera obscura and experience two different types of mirror illusions.

Glowacki incorporates scientific illustration and writing in several ways, ranging from direct appropriation of images, to using images and ideas from the history of science as a bridge to developing visual metaphors. On one hand, she is drawn to the visual richness of many scientific illustrations, to the qualities of the paper and print techniques used to make them. She is also fascinated by the unexpected ways that many of these illustrations combine beauty with morbidity, or by their odd juxtapositions of text with inscrutable processes.

Glowacki’s intent with this exhibition is to introduce a wider audience to the rich history of scientific illustration, and to open a dialogue about intersections between scientific illustration and visual art. Of equal importance, she wants to create a sense of wonder about the beauty and complexity of the natural world and to remind people about the joys of learning and observation.


Exhibition Catalogue


Free Public Programs

Thursday, March 2, 2017: Reception

  • 6–8 p.m. Opening reception: refreshments, live music, cash bar, Mead Witter Lobby

Thursday, April 13, 2017: Lecture (The lecture has been rescheduled from April 6)

  • 5:30–6:30 p.m. Lecture by the artist, Chazen Auditorium

To complement this exhibition, the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, presents Natural History :: Natural Philosophy, February 6–June 2, 2017. The exhibit will include titles that have informed or inspired Glowacki’s work.

Also of interest: New Illuminations: Art-NATURE-History, a Burdick-Vary Symposium, March 3–4, 2017. Visit

IMAGE ABOVE: What Every Woman Ought to Know (detail), 2002–03, altered wood cabinet, mixed media, 78 x 30 x 23 in., courtesy of the artist.

PREVIEW IMAGE: Archetype, 1996, cast iron, glass, bronze, wood, pigments, 19 x 19 x 9 1/2 in., collection of Paula and David Kraemer

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