For more than 25 years Suzanne Styrk (b. 1953, Chicago IL) has recorded her experiences with nature in sketchbooks that are both journals of walks near her Bristol, Virginia home, and scientific documents of the flora and fauna she observes. These pages have served as foundations for hundreds of mixed-media works that blend the natural history of a place with Stryk's own direct experiences with each environment.
Stryk's first Taubman museum exhibition debuts a new series of assemblages that were inspired by Thomas Jefferson's book Notes on the State of Virginia (1781). Like Jefferson's detailed account in both the places Jefferson described as well as the five ecologically distinct regions of the state: Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and the Appalachian Plateau.
Each of the over two dozen works on view (2011-13) features a topographical map as a base overlaid with layers of varying materials, including computer prints of Google Earth images, copies of Jefferson's original handwritten script, and hand-painted passages. In addition, collaged across surfaces are actual organic materials, like insects, leaves, moth wings, feathers, and coral dust. Places such as the Great Dismal Swamp (where slaves hid), Appomattox, and Natural Bridge, all figure in these images, which operate as poetic testaments to the intersections between human history and nature, and the sometimes overlooked links between the two.
The presentation includes a "cabinet of curiosities" or wunderkammer table installation, featuring sketchbooks and organic specimens from the artist's studio displayed as a kind of mini natural history museum.
Curated by Leah Stoddard, Director of Exhibitions, Suzanne Stryk: Notes on the State of Virginia is organized by the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia.