Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art

featuring work by J.C. Fontanive, Peter Gerakaris and Shelley Reed

Wild animals have been present in art since the first artists painted images on cave walls or carved figures in stone tens of thousands of years ago. Today’s artists continue to use animal imagery as away to address humanity’s interconnectedness with the natural world.

Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art explores the meaning of these creative expressions within the context of contemporary art. Featuring a diverse group of more than forty artworks from the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s permanent collection, the exhibition offers a wide range of styles in a variety of media, divided into four thematic sections: Tradition, Politics,Science, and Aesthetics. These realms act as overlapping chapters, investigating the ways we use animal imagery to tackle human concerns and responsibilities.

The title of this exhibition is a play on Charles Darwin’s concept of natural selection from his pivotal writing, On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s ideas contributed much to the development of wildlife art in the late nineteenth century, as artists began to represent animals in natural habitats, enacting natural behaviors. From Julie Buffalohead and Kiki Smith to Walton Ford and James Prosek, the artists in this exhibition represent another stage in the evolution of animal art: choosing to represent animals in alternative, unnatural spaces—spaces more often directly linked to civilization than to wilderness.



Troy Abbott • Timothy Berg and Rebekah Myers • George Boorujy • John Buck • Julie Buffalohead • Mark Dion • Mark Eberhard • Dave Eggers • Juan Fontanive • Walton Ford • Scott Fraser • Peter Gerakaris • Gillie and Marc • Penelope Gottlieb • Starr Hardridge • Nicola Hicks • Dennis Hlynsky • Barbara Kassel • Zoe Keller • Wendy Klemperer • Kollabs, Anke Schofield and Luis Garcia-Nerey • Emily Lamb • Ruth Marshall • Wendy Maruyama • Robert McCauley • William Morris • Marc Petrovic • James Prosek • Shelley Reed • Preston Singletary • Allison Leigh Smith • Kiki Smith • Shawn Smith • Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars • William Sweetlove • Leslie Thornton • Paul Villinski • JenMarie Zeleznak


Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art is organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Generous support provided by Art Bridges. Traveling to Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA, The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, St. Petersburg, FL, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC

January 12, 2024