Scene on Campus


Birds from the Peabody, on the wall of the Art Gallery.

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Artist and author James Prosek ’97 started working on Bird Spectrum, the centerpiece of his current exhibit at the Yale University Art Gallery, during an art residency at the gallery in the summer of 2018. “What I was trying to do visually was make the boundaries between the colors vague and painterly,” he explains;  “nature doesn't fit into neat fragmented boxes surrounded by labels or words.” The rainbow of birds—all of them specimens long preserved in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History—is especially fascinating up close. But one month after the exhibit’s February 14 opening, the gallery shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early April, it remains closed.  (His book of photos from the exhibit, Art, Artifact, Artifice, published by Yale University Press, comes out in June.)

With Bird Spectrum, Prosek says, he was looking for ways to express “how everything in nature is inextricably linked, interconnected, in ways beyond our systems of understanding.” Ironically, the gallery’s closure proves his point. “This virus has come from an interspecies kind of interaction,” he notes. “It jumped from one mammal to another mammal to humans.”

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