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Cabinet of Curiosities : Carol Armstrong w/ Sarah Stengle -
exhibit at Dana Library, Rutgers-Newark

Anna Atkins Redux I: Algae Californiensis

Members of the Rutgers community and the general public are invited to view the early spring exhibition at the John Cotton Dana Library, on the Rutgers-Newark campus - Cabinet of Curiosities: Carol Armstrong with Sarah Stengle - Photographs, Photograms and Prose Pieces by Carol Armstrong, Strange Objects by Sarah Stengle, and Curiosities made by Nature and Art from the Collections of Both Artists. The exhibition will run February 1 – April 9, 2010 in the Dana Gallery on the first floor and the Dana Room on the 4th floor of the library.

The exhibition opening reception will be held Tuesday, March 9th 4-7pm in the Dana Room. For more information on the reception, please contact Ann Watkins at

Drawing on the Renaissance idea of the kunstundwunderkammer, or chamber of arts and wonders, the exhibition "Cabinet of Curiosities" combines the photographic work, writing and object collection of Carol Armstrong with sculptures, books, drawings and collages by Sarah Stengle. The latter (in eight of the cabinets) consist primarily of "strange objects" and "useless tools" constructed of combinations of found and bought things—tool parts, taxidermy glass eyes, snippets from old books, animal antlers and such—with hand-drawn, hand-knitted and felted pieces. The former (on the walls) consist of camera-made landscape and still-life photographs; photographs of objects placed on the pages of natural history encyclopediaea; direct object scans; scanned and printed cyanotypes (cameraless blueprint photograms); together with a set of prose pieces called "Natures Mortes" ("Dead Natures" or "Still Lifes"); all seen at different kinds of mediated remove from the objects themselves, mostly natural, some found and some bought, many of which are to be found in three of the cabinets. Like the old chamber of arts and wonders, the exhibition celebrates the strange and various "art" of nature, intertwined with that of human artifice, seeing their wondrous fecundity and ingenious methods of production and reproduction in relation to one another.

Sarah Stengle makes sculptures, works on paper and artists' books. Her works often include found images or objects, and these are used with abstractelements to create a psychological tension, or frison. Ms. Stengle lives in Princeton, New Jersey and maintains a studio in Trenton. She studied metal-smithing at Carnegie-Mellon University, and got her MFA in at the School of visual arts in 1988 in sculpture. She has exhibited regularly and her work is included in the collections of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Pierpont Morgan Library among others.

Carol Armstrong is a writer, art critic and art historian at Yale University. In 2004, she co-curated the exhibition Oceanflowers: Impressions of Nature with Catherine de Zegher at the Drawing Center in New York and then at the Mellon Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. This show presented cyanotype albums and prints by the Victorian woman Anna Atkins in the context of the history of natural-history illustration in print, photograph, drawing and specimen collecting: ultimately the inspiration for Cabinet of Curiosities goes back to that exhibition. Carol Armstrong has shown her photographic art work at Princeton University ("Pink," "Bodies of Water," "Where the Water Meets the Land"), the Banco do Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, and the Museum of Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil ("Where the Water Meets the Land," with Fernando Azevedo and Leonardo Kossoy). She and Sarah Stengle collaborated on a handmade book of photographs and writings called Ophelia Suite, and on a photographic project called "Bodies of Water."

Posted February 9, 2010; March 4, 2010