The Columbus Museum unveiled Friday morning a custom “cabinet of curiosities” depicting the natural history of the Chattahoochee River Valley.
Artist Mark Dion partnered with Columbus State University art students to create the art installation, titled “A Gentleman Collector in the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley.”
Dion made several trips to the area in 2018, working with students of CSU art professor Michael McFalls in his fall 2018 “Great Conversations/ Art and Research” class. The class went to an auction, toured West Point Lake, visited Pasaquan and collected bug samples. They also met with a folklorist, artist, scientist and several business owners.
“Personally, it was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences that I have had in my 17-year career,” said McFalls in a press release from the university. “It was truly an interdisciplinary topics class that focused on the research, process and the creation of artwork.”
Dion describes himself as a sculptor interested in material culture. He said he tries to create a dialogue with place and history through things, instead of images. The cabinet’s drawers contain a variety of found objects gathered on his visits to the area. In his words, it’s a sort of a three-dimensional scrapbook he hopes will provoke a sense of wonder.
“For me wonder leads to curiosity, curiosity leads to knowledge,” Dion said. “And for me the role of the museum is to very much create that kind of wonder.”
“I hope that this is a piece that delights viewers,” he said. “That’s really my intent, and makes people think about the sort of depth of history.”
Dion said he hopes the items in the curiosity cabinet connect with museum visitors.
“It’s very important to me that the viewer also locates themselves and feels a relationship to these things,” he said, “and opens it and sees a spoon from that ice cream shop that I go to all the time.”
CSU students who participated in the project were Vivian Duncan, Cierra Fountain, Lee Gilford, Rebecca Hucks, Jonathan Macgregor, Elyse Mixon, Abby Grace Moore, Yun Praught, Chad Reynolds, Joshua Richmond, Kate Scrivner, Ainsley Steeves, Dalton Tanner, Jade Thornton and Perry Valentine.