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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Book Review: Leah Sobsey, "Collections: Birds, Bones and Butterflies"

Book Review: Leah Sobsey, "Collections: Birds, Bones and Butterflies"

©Leah Sobsey, Passerina cyanea

©Leah Sobsey, Passerina cyanea

Leah Sobsey’s Collections memorializes and repurposes the once-living, the once-used. Her showcase of National Parks’ museum collections allows for an eye-catching remembrance of what was, what is, and what could be. 

©Leah Sobsey, Merops viridis

©Leah Sobsey, Merops viridis

Inspired by her childhood memory of the birds in Chicago’s Field Museum collection, her anthropological background, and her acknowledgement and concern over climate change, Collections craftily displays specimens of birds, plants, butterflies, and bones, as well as tools and other man-made artifacts. 

©Leah Sobsey, Acadia Specimens

©Leah Sobsey, Acadia Specimens

Sobsey, specifically for her butterfly and plant images, works in cyanotype. The photographs’ contrast between subject and background, brought about by the use of cyanotype, allows for a vibrancy in the specimens that, in the words of Xandra Eden, “give[s] presence to whatever life they have left.” 

©Leah Sobsey, The Swarm Grid

©Leah Sobsey, The Swarm Grid

To remind us even more about the continuing cycle through life, purpose, and death, Sobsey begins, places sporadically, and ends, with images of flying birds. The contrast between the living birds, the deceased specimens, the bones, and the man-made artifacts shines a light on the effects of the human footprint. 

©Leah Sobsey, Piranga Olivacea

©Leah Sobsey, Piranga Olivacea

Sobsey’s work will remind you of the continual cycle of life and death, and, as she perfectly said herself, her work “sheds light on the collections and their impact on science, history, the humanities, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors—current and future—who leave their footprints on our national parks."

Article © Liana DeMasi

Images © Leah Sobsey

 

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