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2024 Annual Conference

St. Louis

March 21-23, 2024

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Past SPE Annual Conferences

Austin Cullen

SPE Member since 2017
Member Chapter: South Central

A Natural History (Built to be Seen)

A Natural History (Built to be Seen) is a series of observations of the western natural world, with an emphasis on the spectacular and absurd ways it's constructed and presented. As someone who grew up attending natural history museums regularly, I've always been fascinated by the extravagant ways museums framed the American Landscape. Dramatic dioramas, interactive virtual experiences, and miniaturized landscapes all acted as a window into the natural world. While this framing acts as a guide for reading and understanding nature, the same frame can be analyzed to understand the complex and ever-changing relationship between people and land.
With this in mind, I want to understand the ways that Natural History Museums and the American Landscape affect one another. My photographs contrast and connect the interior spaces of Museums with exterior spaces, like National Parks and Scenic Viewpoints. Cycling between these spaces blurs the lines between the two. Because of the similar ways nature is distorted and simplified for the viewer, what is artificial or natural, inside or outside, becomes indistinguishable. By relating the microcosm of natural history museums to the macrocosm of the larger American landscape, the cultural biases and at times absurd expectations of what is "natural" come to the forefront of the project.

Coyote

Panoramic Diorama

A View in Order

Black Bear

Toadstool Park Diorama

Visitors at Mesa Arch

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