Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences.
The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). Neukom Vivarium (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. Dion lives and works in Pennsylvania.
Portland State University’s Art Department offers free public lectures every Monday night of the school year. This is the twenty-third lecture of the fourth year of the PMMNLS. The PSU MFA Monday Night Lecture Series is supported in part by PICA, Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, and The NW Film Center.