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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Sarah Cusimano Miles

SPE Member since 2008
Member Chapter: South Central

Solomon's House

The photographs in the body of work, Solomon's House, explore the collections repository of the Anniston Museum of Natural History in Anniston, Alabama. The specimens are taken from the dark storage where they reside, on shelves, in bottles, and in drawers, and bathed with light to illuminate the often disturbing and exquisite elegance of the accumulated and warehoused organisms. By portraying these objects through the tradition of the still life, the artist explores ideas of cultural decadence and beauty in stasis. In addition, these photographs are comprised of numerous single frames combined to construct high-resolution composite images. This allows for the capture and portrayal of the subject in a manner that goes beyond that which is possible through a single exposure. In this way the image exists as a double construction; once as the objects are assembled to be photographed, and again as the frames are combined to form the final image.
The title, Solomon's House, references a work by Francis Bacon published in 1627 called The New Atlantis. In it, he wrote of a fictitious utopian science facility he called "Solomon's House" that embodied the growing scientific ideals of the 17th century. Stirred by this fabricated institution, The Royal Society of England requested donations of private collections of natural objects to the society's future museum of natural history and science. This repository of specimens was used for empirical observation and scientific study, however, the original function of the cabinets of curiosities from which the specimens were collected was to stimulate wonder and awe. It is this mysterious allure of the disquieting collection and the attraction to the confluence of science, technology, and art that informs these photographs.

Lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudate) with kumquats


Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) with artichoke

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) with pomegranate and specimen

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) with specimens

Copper Pheasants (Syrmaticus soemmeringii) with apricots

American Bitterns (Botaurus lentiginosus) with rose

Barbary Sheep (Ammotragus lervia)

Pangolin (Manis gigantean) with garlic

Puffer Fish (83.12.4) specimen

Unlabeled fish specimen

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

Two views of unlabeled seahorse (Hippocampus) specimen

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) skin specimen

Bat (Chiroptera) specimen

Caiman (Caiman sclerops - juvenile) specimen

Chameleon (Chamaeleonidae) specimen

Turtle specimens

Frog specimens I

Frog specimens II

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