Jennifer Chandler, director of the Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam
Hill Warehouse, hangs “Californian Vulture” (California Condor), by John
James Audubon, in the Prescott College Natural History Institute.
Courtesy photo.“The Art of Natural History”
By James Dungeon
first blush, the 250 prints in the Josephine Michell Arader Natural
History Print Collection are a dizzying floral and faunal cacophony.
one image, a pair of Great Auks enjoy a dynamic scene with severe
cliffs and choppy seas. In another, gruesome eels swim in an illusory
ether stacked row upon impossible row. Others depict plants — some in
acute, meticulous realism, some in a surreal limbo including multiple
stages of development.
a scientific perspective, you could divvy these prints up by taxonomy,
geography, or morphology. From an artistic perspective, you could divvy
them up by chronology, technique, or stylistic sensibilities.
all means, do that — a large selection from the collection is on
display Nov. 8 – Dec. 14 at the Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill
Warehouse, while an ongoing rotation of prints debuts at the college’s
nascent Natural History Institute this month — but before you delve too
deep into delineation, just look at them.
the first thing is that some of them are just jaw-droppingly gorgeous,”
says Dr. Tom Fleischner, director of Prescott College’s nascent Natural
History Institute. “There are some of them, like the Great Auks, that I
just can’t keep my eyes off of.”
simple act of looking was the first step that lead to the creation of
these images. It’s the starting point for what Fleischner calls
“humanities oldest tradition” that inspires both science and art.
“Natural history,” Fleischner says, “is, quite simply, paying attention to the world around us.”
“The Art of Natural History”
history can be problematic for people,” Fleischner says. “They think,
‘Hey, that’s something I did in grade school in a field.’”
fact, he continues, it’s a multi-faceted area of study that brings
together skills and ideas we think of as disparate in modern academic
about the relationship between feelings and facts, emotion and
rationality, between esthetics and cataloging,” Fleischner says. “(It’s)
how these things come together and help us understand the natural
an effort to highlight the interdisciplinary aspects of the field,
Fleischner has teamed up with M. Jennifer Chandler, director of the
Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse for “The Art of
Natural History,” a three-day celebration and symposium Nov. 8-10 at
Prescott College. (There are other faculty members and students
the Natural History Institute technically opened for a few events
earlier this year, this weekend doubles as the facility’s official grand
are walks, talks, and panel discussions that begin at the renovated
Natural History Institute (312 Grove St.), as well as an art gallery
opening for selection from the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History
Print Collection at Sam Hill Warehouse (232 Granite St.).
Arader collection itself — the pieces of which straddle the 16th
through 19th centuries — is the jumping off point for the weekend’s
eponymous panel discussion 2 p.m., Saturday, at the Natural History
are so many different ways to approach and appreciate these pieces,”
Chandler says. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an artist background, a
science background, or if you’re a lover of history or a lover of
order to facilitate novel discussions about these pieces, Chandler
says, the gallery will have some hands-on stations and other activities
at the gallery.
trying to really honor the Age of Discovery that many of these pieces
came from,” she says. “We really want to create a discussion about
“Wake Robin,” by Elizabeth Blackwell. Courtesy image.
“Magpie” detail, by John Gould. Courtesy image.
“Rosa banksiae” detail by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Courtesy image.
“Caracal male” detail, by Georges Cuvier. Courtesy image.
“1 Ostrea Multilirata” detail, by William H. Emory. Courtesy image.
“Son-bread,” by Elizabeth Blackwell. Courtesy image.
The “hopeful side”
the time she graduated from Prescott College in 2007, Josephine Arader
had all but given up on a career in on-the-ground conservation.
were a lot of classes about how to keep the faith while working in
these fields, but it was really hard for me,” Arader says. “I didn’t see
a way I could work with policy or actual conservation without getting
discouraged. … It was too dismal.”
entered the family business, Arader Galleries — a collection of
galleries across the country that deal in rare books and art. (It was
started by her father, Graham, nearly four decades ago.)
This might seem like an about face, except that Arader Galleries specializes in natural history prints.
on a program Arader’s father started with a school in Florida, the
gallery has given large sets of artwork to a handful of educational
institutions across the country. (Technically speaking, they lease them
to an institution for a few years while raising money to pay for them.
At the end of the lease, Arader Galleries donates the remaining
seemed like that kind of program and collection would fit so well at
Prescott College,” Arader says. “So, a year or two ago, I emailed Tom
Fleischner, who was my mentor and advisor when I was there.”
who was wading through the development of the Natural History Institute
back then, says the timing was serendipitous.
“It sort of came out of the blue,” he says, “but, by coincidence, everything lined up. … It’s been amazing.”
was initially pitched as a $300,000 collection ballooned to $1.2
million. (By early October, more than half the money had already been
raised by Arader Galleries.)
she can’t make it to Prescott for the “The Art of Natural History”
weekend — and, truth be told, she’s a little embarrassed that collection
is named after her — Arader says she could think of no better home for
After all, this kind of work is what inspires people to continue fighting the good fight, she says.
think that natural history artwork is the hopeful side of things,”
Arader says. “It’s a way for us to celebrate the natural beauty of the
Dr. Tom Fleischner, director of Prescott College’s Natural History Institute. Photo by Benjamin Drummond.
Jennifer Chandler, director of the Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam
Hill Warehouse, examines a print from the Josephine Michell Arader
Collection. Courtesy image
The Art of Natural History symposium schedule. Illustration by 5enses.
about whose work is in the Josephine Michell Aradar Natural History
Print Collection? There are pieces by John James Audubon, Pierre-Joseph
Redouté, Leonhart Fuchs, Elizabeth Blackwell, Albertus Seba, John Gould,
aria Sibylla Merian, and Mark Catesby, among others.
the Prescott College Natural History Institute 1-5 p.m. Thursdays and
Fridays at 312 Grove Ave. or online at
Prescott.Edu/Natural-History-Institute. Visit the Prescott College Art
Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
at 232 N. Granite St. or online at Prescott.Edu/Gallery. “The Art of
Natural History” celebration and symposium is Nov. 8-10 at both
locations. Visit Arader Galleries online at AraderGalleries.Com.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.