public art

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They say you can’t fall into the same stream twice, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

One thing you can do is collect some water in bottles you find floating in the stream, and let it freeze while the year changes from old to new. The next day, cut the plastic off and you’re left with ghost bottles.

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This stream is fed by the surrounding neighborhoods, shopping centers, highways, and vestiges of green spaceā€”our traces all collect here. As they melted, these old selves were filtered through the new Matthew Henson Nature Center, adding to the collection and then getting back to business.


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A set of wicker shelves placed in the woods.

I’ve begun a new interactive installation, in uninvited collaboration with the Maryland Parks Department.

The Matthew Henson Self-Serve Nature Center will respond to your scholarly requests in real time.

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All museums have missions.
This Museum exists to be discovered.
It’s a catalyst for surprise and wonder and community.

The wonder depends on the surprise, and the surprise depends on it remaining a secret. That’s the first paradox. I’ve been wondering how to share a work that is by nature secret, sketchy, and illegal.

The second paradox is that if you make art out of other people’s trash, well meaning citizens might throw it away. So I had considered the Earthday Cleanup scheduled for Saturday, April 19, to be a deadline: Share this work before an army of girl scouts and art critics carries it out of the woods in bright plastic bags. Where could I find a large number of people ready to take an interest in this tiny manufactured wilderness? You see where this is going…

I realized that the community I was seeking and the community I dreaded are one and the same. The people who use this stream are the ones who care enough to clean it. So I will be staffing the Museum of Natural Selection this Saturday. I’ll ask anyone who happens by to consider its natural place in the scheme of things, and to add their most interesting finds to the collection. And if no one else shows up, I’ll pick things up and make art out of them.

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Yesterday’s curatorial criteria for the Museum of Natural Selection may have been as simple as “round things.”


The Museum itself is changing colors and collecting its own flotsam. If it was a mood ring it would be signaling contentment, with a passionate undercurrent.


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