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Brian Collier, detail of \
Brian Collier, detail of "81 Cubic Inches": Paintings, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, IL, 2001.

Brian Collier,  Detail of \   Brian Collier, Detail of "81 Cubic Inches": Display table with cubic inch earth samples, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, IL, 2001.
Brian Collier, \   Brian Collier, "81 Cubic Inches", installation view, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, IL, 2001.
Brian Collier

81 Cubic Inches

In 81 Cubic Inches I assume a variety of roles and utilize a series of methods to analyze Lilliputian samples of "nature." I focus on how art and science relate to each other as competing or complementary ways to interpret the natural world. This art/science approach is partly inspired by methods of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century naturalists like Charles Willson Peale, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon. Combining the roles of artist, scientist, and naturalist, I consider not only the intricate complexities of the "everyday" but also ideas about the shifting context of material after it is collected.

This project comments on the filtering and processing of "nature," as most of us experience it in the United States. "Nature" has been subdivided and compartmentalized to such a degree that our experience of it rarely extends beyond managed parks, natural history museums, and television shows. To comment on this situation, I separated samples from their original environment and placed them in containers. In the finished installation, the structure created by the plexiglas cubes and grids is in direct conflict with the seemingly chaotic forms within each sample and its corresponding painting. By following this process of collection, isolation, and representation, I allude to larger-scale divisions imposed on the natural world as it is divided into smaller and smaller habitat islands.

The removal of each cubic-inch sample created a small, square hole in the ground, which may be perceived as miniature earth art. This miniaturization not only comments on the shrinking of the natural environment, but also takes something that is generally perceived as Herculean, earth art, and transforms it into a more intimate design. Although my work departs from earlier earthworks in many additional ways, I remain interested in Robert Smithson's definitions of Site/Non-site and reference them in the installation by combining the photographs of the holes left at the collection sites with the displayed samples of earth.

The "81 Cubic Inches" project consists of eighty-one framed paintings, a display table containing eighty-one earth samples in Plexiglas boxes, four handmade books on wood stands, and collection box with tools used during the making of the project. Dimensions variable.

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