Mark Dion

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 sixteenth 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 Miami Art Museum (2006); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 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.

Read more

A weekly digest of things to watch, read, and hear from the comforts of your home, selected by Art21-featured artists and Art21 staff.

Teaching with Contemporary Art

Teaching with the Great Outdoors

Art21 senior education advisor Joe Fusaro collects seven Art21 films showing artists who find ways to work in—or work for—the benefit of the great outdoors.

Big Question

Who Decides What Stands for Nature?

Mark Dion confronts bias in representations of the natural world

Teaching with Contemporary Art

Fueled by the Classroom: Being an Artist and Educator

Art21’s senior education advisor, Joe Fusaro, shares how he makes meaningful connections between his art practice and being an arts educator.

Teaching with Contemporary Art

Decay: Ecology of a Nurse Log

Educator-in-Residence Tricia Fitzpatrick uses the curiosity of a student to prompt a lesson on sustainable ecosystems.

Interview

“Neukom Vivarium”

Artist Mark Dion discusses his 2006 installation Neukom Vivarium.

Interview

Science and Aesthetics

Artist Mark Dion discusses his work’s relation to performance, authority, aesthetics and humor.