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Betsy Stirratt: Unearthing   

January 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - March 19, 2023 @ 6:00 pm


In Unearthing, Stirratt explores how natural and cultural objects are presented in collections and museum settings, and how we preserve, classify, and display them.

From Stirratt: “I have visited many natural history, herbaria and medical museums in Europe and the US with the aim of understanding their objectives, collecting impulses, and labelling practices. With similar intent, I visited several regional historical sites and collections, including the Workingmen’s Institute in New Harmony, the Indiana University Paleontology Collection, and Angel Mounds. The resulting photographs and objects demonstrate the sometimes underestimated importance of local and regional history within the broader museum sphere.

The items within a museum or private collection are accumulated with a view to imposing order, classifying nature, preserving memory, or in some instances to signaling status. Items may be preserved for their cultural and historical importance, or for their aesthetic qualities. For some, collecting serves as a means of accumulating knowledge, or as inspiration for their imagination and memories. For me, it’s the embedded history of objects and places, and how history and folklore can inform our relationship with the world.

More specifically, I’m interested in the idea of both documenting collected items and using this documenting collected items and using the documentation process to create new artifacts: a coupling of curation and creation, as it were. Influenced by my many years as a gallery director and curator, I think about the way that art and objects are selected and placed in juxtaposition with each other and how they are subsequently perceived by viewers. It is important to acknowledge that the viewer’s experience is changed by the inclusion or exclusion of objects and the information that accompanies them.

The videos in the exhibit were made using three artists books that contain words and pictures about collections I have visited: specifically botany, anatomy and zoological collections. Each of the videos features the turning pages of the books in the Collected Series, interspersed with video and audio clips that I gathered from museum visits, educational films and from life.

Additionally, alongside the pieces inspired by museum collections and artifacts in this installation, I am including materials I have collected (e.g., a 19th c. herbarium, Victorian bird taxidermy, amateur butterfly collections) relating to my interest in history, natural history and the ways objects are preserved and presented within a curated setting. These items were gathered because almost all were created by an amateur who had some specific interest in the subject that he/she was preserving.

Collections and museums inform us about the world we live in, record the past and provide material memory across generations. Unearthing is an attempt to impose order on an unordered world, drawing upon hazy memory, inexact connections, and interpreted histories.  The process of unearthing objects, both physically and metaphorically, can broaden our experience of the world, stimulating imagination and wonder about what we have around us.”                                                                       

About the artist                                                                              

Betsy Stirratt’s creative practice focuses on themes about nature, collections and the environment.  She is the Founding Director of the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University Bloomington where she has curated exhibitions and published catalogs since 1987. Exhibiting her own work widely since 1983, solo exhibitions include La Maladie at The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago and Veiled Taxonomies at the Center for Book Arts in New York. Her work has been included in group exhibits at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and White Columns and Art in General in New York among others. She is the recipient of a Visual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday -Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tube is also open until 10 p.m. each First Friday.
Closed Holidays

Made possible by The Arts Council of Indianapolis, The City of Indianapolis and the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.


January 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm
March 19, 2023 @ 6:00 pm
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Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St.
Indianapolis, IN 46203 United States
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