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12 July 2012

12 July 2012 – It’s All in the Presentation

Our Moth arrangement

Last night was unusually cold, which made for a mediocre catch and no new species. So rather than spending the morning identifying moths, I helped Carry Akroyd, our next featured artist, set up her exhibition in the gallery. She is showing her latest lithograph series, “Found in the Fields”, based on John Clare’s poetry celebrating nature and wildlife in the English countryside. You might not realize it but you are already familiar with at least one of her pieces by now… the Coxwold nightscape at the top of this blog! I’ve seen quite a few of her latest works and I can honestly tell you they are worth a visit. The exhibition begins this Sunday, details can be found on our website.

Anyway, as I was helping her hang the prints at suitable heights and in complimentary clusters, I realized how much thought and care goes into deciding how to ‘present’ to the viewing public. I wondered if I was presenting our moths to Shandy Hall visitors in the manner they deserved. Our moths look fantastic when they are spotted on a leaf or focused and cropped to the center of a photograph, but if someone new to ‘mothing’ must peer into a dark trap filled with egg cartons and caddis flies, they might be less impressed. Of course, some museums still have their age-old moths brilliantly aligned in display cases, but the sight also invokes sadness at the tragedy of the moths’ fates.

Moths on display

Patrick and I got to talking about how to display our live moths to viewers in a more intriguing way than through the trap, but not as cruel as display cases. He remembered a book he owned as a child that presented moths and other natural wonders with remarkable aesthetic success. Surely if it came to mind decades after reading the book, the illustrations were effective. We managed to find it: Shell Nature Studies by Geoffrey Grigson with illustrations by Tristram Hillier. Isn’t this painting a gorgeous way to arrange a moth scene?

Hillier’s illustration in the Shell Nature Studies book

We were inspired to set up a still life of our own. Now when visitors come they can look into the cage and find all of the best catches of the day organized into a staged and idyllic, but appealing scene. What do you think of our first try? (See the photograph at the top of this post).

Before I go, let me just remind you that this Sunday is the last day for submissions to the Cryptic Crossword. Don’t miss out on your chance to win a prize!

Post by Helen Levins