Renowned Artist Mark Dion To Retrace Steps of
Great Philadelphians John and William Bartram
Public Invited to Participate Online in MarkDionsBartramsTravels.com
PHILADELPHIA – November 15, 2007 – Celebrated artist Mark Dion left today for a historic journey to retrace the trips of noted Philadelphia botanists John and William Bartram, a trip that is the beginning of a project to create a site specific art exhibition at Bartram’s Garden, America’s oldest living botanical garden. As an artist whose work blurs the boundaries between contemporary art, history, and science, Dion is the perfect artist to work at this site.
Travels of William Bartram – Reconsidered will examine the history and culture of 18th century American naturalists, John (1699-1777) and his son William Bartram (1739-1823). Using their travel journals, drawings, and maps, Dion plans to retrace the exploratory journeys of the Bartrams, in particular, William’s expedition to northern Florida. Often Dion and his companion “explorers” will travel in the same ways the Bartrams did: by horseback, boat, and on foot.
Once on the road, Dion will collect specimens and man-made artifacts found in the landscape, which has clearly changed a great deal since the Bartrams’ travels 200 years ago. In keeping with Dion’s longstanding interest in “mail art,” he will send his findings back to Bartram’s Garden. The artifacts and specimens will be installed in souvenir cabinets that Dion will be designed and built for the exhibit in John Bartram’s historic house.
“This is an exciting opportunity to combine the physical beauty of history and science,” said Dion.
“To me, this is the quintessential exploratory road trip: part Lewis and Clark, part Jack Kerouac, part Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and part Borat.”
The exhibition will open at Bartram’s Garden in June. Until then, the public will have a unique opportunity to follow Dion on his journey through an innovative website at: www.MarkDionsBartramsTravels.com
The idea of Travels of William Bartram – Reconsidered was conceived by independent curator, Julie Courtney, who often commissions contemporary artists to work in and interpret historic sites. Her past projects include Prison Sentences: The Prison as Site/The Prison as Subject (with Todd Gilens,1995, Eastern State Penitentiary); Points of Departure: Art on the Line (1998-2001, train stations out the “Main Line”); Pandemonium with Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (2005-2006, Eastern State Penitentiary); The Lost Meeting with J. Morgan Puett and David Lang (2005 in an abandoned Quaker meetinghouse at Alverthorpe Park); and metaMetasequoia with John McQueen, Margo Mensing and J Shermeta (Morris Arboretum, 2006).
“This exhibition is an exciting juxtaposition of Philadelphia’s great heritage, science and contemporary art,” said Courtney. “We’re thrilled that Mark is participating in this project; he is the perfect artist to bring these disparate elements together.”
Travels of William Bartram – Reconsidered this project has been supported by a grant from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative and the Marketing Innovation Program, both programs of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
About Mark Dion
A resident of Pennsylvania and New York City, Dion has recently been artist-in-residence at the Museum of Natural History in London, which houses the largest collection of the Bartrams’ memorabilia. His international connection to Bartram makes this is a particularly appropriate project for Dion. After his send off, the exhibition at Bartram’s Garden will develop and grow. His collection process, mailing of artifacts, and artful arrangement of them, will culminate in spring 2008 with a public unveiling of the cabinets and garden. Dion’s deep respect and knowledge about the Bartram legacy in natural science and art, combined with his quirky perspective, make this project thoughtful and amusing in turn. Collaborative partners include American Philosophical Society and The Wagner Free Institute of Science. Other partners will emerge as the project develops. Other collaborative partners with this project include The Wagner Free Institute of Science, The Academy of Natural Sciences and Tyler School of Art.
About Bartram’s Garden
Bartram’s Garden, founded in 1728, was the home and farmstead of colonial botanist John Bartram. Located on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia, the 45-acre site includes the National Historic Landmark Bartram House; 18th century farm outbuildings (including the oldest barn in Philadelphia County and a Museum Shop housed in a former stable); and a historic botanic garden including: native plants, historic trees, water gardens, tidal freshwater wetland, a 15-acre wildflower meadow reclaimed by the John Bartram Association from an abandoned industrial site, river trails, and a new boat dock.
About the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative
The Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of The Arts, was established to stimulate artistic development in the regional visual arts community by supporting public, visual arts exhibitions and accompany publications of high artistic caliber and cultural significance. The Pew Charitable Trusts support nonprofit activities in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion. Based in Philadelphia, The Pew Charitable Trusts make strategic investments to help organizations and citizens develop practical solutions to difficult programs.