In a provocative display that incorporates contemporary art, relics from the natural world, and items of material culture, The Nest, an exhibition of art in nature, examines the exquisite beauty and profound symbolism of the nest in art and culture. Drawing its inspiration from the extraordinary form of the bird’s nest, the exhibition examines how the fundamental drive to gather, assemble, and create is a function of both nature and the artistic process.
The Nest includes a blend of authentic nests, works by eighteen contemporary artists, and a selection of feathered pre-Columbian textiles, offering a rare opportunity to consider the creative impulse from multiple vantage points.
In a diverse range of mediums, the work of the artists in the exhibition spans from direct consideration of birds and their nests to those treating the nest’s symbolic potential. They examine the life of birds and grapple with our changing environment, while exploring the nest as metaphor of home, birth, economy, and the human body. Artists in the exhibition include Sharon Beals, Sanford Biggers, Dove Bradshaw, Björn Braun, John Burtle, Walton Ford, Shiela Hale, Fiona Hall, Porky Hefer, Nina Katchadourian, Louise Lawler, Judy Pfaff, James Prosek, Hunt Slonem, Kiki Smith, Andreas Sterzing, Paul Villinski, and David Wojnarowicz.
Next to these contemporary works appears a selection of pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles. Adorned with hundreds to tens of thousands of brightly colored feathers, their artistry confirms that birds have served as a source of inspiration for makers since ancient times. Birds’ nests from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History collection also populate the galleries, a selection from one of the most extensive and significant collections in North America.
The affinities in aesthetic language between the birds’ and artists’ creations provoke inquiries into the definition of art as they blur the traditional division between art object and the everyday natural environment.
Exhibition overview from the Katonah Museum of Art website.