THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN EXOTIC: A LOOK AT NATURAL HISTORY ILLUSTRATION FROM CATEBY TO AUDUBON
The exotic, a tricky word to define at best, can be seen as the other, a projection of difference onto an object or person. The exotic is produced, rather than something simply defined. Animals are not necessarily exotic intrinsically, but rather are made into objects that can be both understood and portrayed in a certain manner. Thus, natural history image making has long been a part of defining and interpreting the exotic in nature.
From this, we can see that the field of natural history is immensely important in the Americas. From the very beginning, the American colonies represented a world full of new possibilities and resources. Not only were the colonies a rich source of resources and goods, they also provided a completely new and unique world to explore, especially to naturalists. Yet, as the U.S. became independent, there was an increasing need to not only distinguish itself from the rest of the world, but to prove the uniqueness and individuality of the new world. One major way this was brought about was through natural history. By describing and showcasing American animals as not only exotic and unique, but distinctly American, naturally history helped declare and eventually preserve a new identity for the U.S. and its people. The tones of natural history in the U.S. change as it develops as a nation, and thus we can see the evolution of the American exotic through the main players in natural history in the U.S. This progression of natural history can thus be examined through four distinct artist-‐naturalists who attempted to chart and identify the species of America: Mark Catesby, William Bartram, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon.
SECTOR B: Art and Culture of Seeing
ADVISERS: Michael Leja (ARTH) | Matt Neff (FNAR)