Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County Announces Artists Selected for Reframing Dioramas, an Exhibition Exploring the Art, History, and Enduring Value of Diorama Halls

Author: Newsroom

Los Angeles, CA (November 30, 2023) — The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced that artists Saul Becker, Lauren Schoth, and an artists’ team including Yesenia Prieto, RFX1 (Jason Chang), and Joel Fernando, have been selected to create installations in a habitat diorama hall at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park as part of the exhibition Reframing Dioramas: The Art of Preserving Wilderness opening in September 2024. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of NHM’s diorama halls, the exhibition explores the complicated history and unique artistry of the habitat diorama and is presented in a newly restored diorama hall that has been closed to the public for decades. 

“Dioramas inspire wonder and encourage discovery and open-ended exploration. Reframing Dioramas will critically reexamine the legacy of dioramas and reaffirm our commitment to the art form,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. “The artists chosen to help us explore the power and artistry of dioramas will bring their own unique insights to a historic diorama hall. We welcome their exciting perspective on this century-old exhibition practice.”

NHM’s historic diorama halls showcase more than 75 incredibly detailed habitats from arctic tundra to tropical rainforest. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dioramas, NHM will restore and reopen a diorama hall that has been closed for decades. There, visitors will experience immersive new installations that call attention to dioramas as a unique combination of art and science that explores biodiversity, ecology, conservation, colonialism, and changing museum display techniques. Visitors will be inspired to examine these illusions of wilderness through a series of displays, engaging programs, and a new book titled Fabricating Wilderness: The Habitat Dioramas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which sheds light on the previously untold history of NHM’s dioramas. 

Contemporary artists were invited to submit proposals that re-envision the ways in which we can present habitats within or related to the context of dioramas. The three proposals chosen from submissions include digital art, painting, and mixed media installations that explore the habitats, landscapes, and species of the Los Angeles region. 

Special Species proposed by Yesenia Prieto, RFX1 (Jason Chang), and Joel Fernando will showcase a variety of handcrafted alebrije (Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures who represent the spirit world and our connection to nature) made from recycled materials in an amalgamation of California’s biomes. It will create an immersive experience that changes with day/night cycles and seasons, featuring spirit animals representing different seasons. 

The Ever-Changing Flow is a multimedia diorama of the ecological evolution of the Los Angeles River, proposed by Lauren Schoth. It will draw an emotional connection to the terrain and stoke a curiosity to discover how the Los Angeles River has transformed from a biodiverse ecosystem to a channelized concrete jungle.

This immersive installation depicts the L.A. River throughout different epochs and will merge a meticulously crafted foreground inspired by a fluvial terrace with state-of-the-art extended reality technologies, including 3D scene rendering, immersive sound design, and forced-perspective projection mapping. 

Saul Becker has proposed A Peculiar Garden, which is a reference to the energy that goes into organizing our environment, both thoughtfully and absent-mindedly. The diorama presents a strange crystalline mise-en-scene, inviting visitors to appreciate its eerie beauty and the artificiality of nature in frozen stasis, symbolizing a possible future. Elements include taxidermy specimens drinking from polluted waters, an upturned and burnt tree trunk, electroplated plants (both native and invasive to Los Angeles), a graffiti-covered boulder, and amethyst specimens. 

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