March 8, 2012
Prairie companions: Beach Museum exhibition shows what it’s like to be home on the range from an animal's view
Animals large and small and critters that fly, slither and crawl call Kansas State University’s Konza Prairie home. An exhibition at the university’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art shows what it’s like to live on the prairie from the vantage point of these mammals, reptiles, birds and more.
“Tallgrass TV: Sam Easterson’s Tribute to the Konza Prairie” features video footage of animals native to Konza and other similar prairie environments. It runs until June 10 in the Beach Museum of Art’s Vanier Gallery.
Created by noted video naturalist Sam Easterson, the exhibition includes a variety of animal-borne imaging videos, from a gray wolf to bison, to show their perspective on the world. Six monitors will have videos running on a continuous loop, with each monitor featuring a different video. Along with still photos, the exhibition will feature three taxidermy displays of a quail, fungi and Luna moth.
“I came up with the concept of using cameras to give an animal’s perspective when I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota. In my landscape architecture studies, I learned how sheep were sometimes used to mow Central Park and wondered what it would be like to see from their pastoral perspective,” Easterson said.
As part of the exhibition, Easterson will give a gallery talk, “Tallgrass TV: Tuning in to Nature,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Beach Museum. The gallery talk will explore techniques and tools of contemporary naturalists. Easterson will also introduce his new museum, which uses still photos and video footage from camera trap surveys, animal borne imaging studies, and other wildlife surveillance projects to present ingenious new ways to view the natural world.
Although Easterson is best known for his animal-borne imaging work, such as the videos that will be on display at the Beach Museum, he is now focused on collecting footage from other filmmakers.
“I started collecting other people’s work because I thought it was important to identify that there are a lot of people doing this type of work capturing remotely-sensed wildlife imagery,” Easterson said. “All the work collected by me is catalogued digitally on hard drives. I hope to make this work available for display to the public via the Wildlife Surveillance Museum.”
Beach Museum of Art director Linda Duke first encountered Easterson’s work while visiting family in Fort Collins, Colo. She couldn’t figure out what she was seeing when she walked into the darkened gallery area with a TV screen and strange footage. Then she noticed the snout and ears of an armadillo.
“I was riveted by the way an animal moves through the world — the sounds, the determined blundering of the animal through the bush, all fascinating,” Duke said.
Duke invited Easterson to come to the Beach Museum and share his work.
“Sam’s work really connects with natural sciences and environmental studies. When I found out that Konza Prairie is celebrating its 40th anniversary and all the local schools are doing prairie-related studies, I called him up and asked him if he would be interested in doing something focused on animals native to Konza Prairie,” she said. “Beach Museum senior educator Kathrine Schlageck was already laying plans with local schools to connect art and science as part of the celebration. This fit perfectly.”
The exhibition has been designed by Easterson with assistance from the Beach Museum of Art exhibitions designer Lindsay Smith.