In the current age of genetic mapping, designer organisms, and rapidly morphing biospheres, artists who work on the cusp between art and science are mining rich veins of content. Colorado-based artist Rosane Volchan O’Conor’s installation Archaea will allude directly to the unique history of the Yellowstone’s micro-biome. “Archaea” are microscopic organisms that survive in extreme environments. They were first studied in Yellowstone National Park, where they are responsible for the magnificent coloration of the famed Morning Glory hot spring. Dr. Carl Woese discovered this new category of living organisms in the 1970s, and the discovery revolutionized the biological classification system and our understanding of the origins of life.
O’Conor’s installation draws from the biomorphic forms of this branch of scientific inquiry as well as the intense coloration. She plans an immersive installation suggestive of biomorphic forms crawling off the walls, hanging crystalized in space and mutating into clusters across the floor. Using welded metal wire, torch-bent glass and neon, acrylic, paper, mylar, porcelain, and other conventional and unconventional materials, O’Conor will take the YAM’s gallery and create a miniature universe. Viewers will be invited to enter a bustling, interconnected world of micro-organisms existing independent of the laws of scientific reality – a complex biotic community inhabited by loose interpretations of biological cells, protozoa, synapses, underwater micro-organisms, cosmic events, planets, and galaxies. The environment will be at once chaotic and harmonious, expansive and intricate.
As an adjunct to the exhibition, the museum is privileged to exhibit three historic watercolors by Thomas Moran that stem from the Hayden Expedition of 1871. These works are on loan courtesy of the National Park Service. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to compare the differing approaches that these artists have taken when interpreting the subject of one of the nation’s best loved parks.