Wondertoonel by Mark Ryden 
Paperback; 32 pages
Frye Art Museum
0.1 pounds; Please inquire about dimensions
Artist Statement (excerpt): IN 1706 THE DUTCH MERCHANT Levin Vincent published a book titled Wondertoonel der Nature that features etched images of his collection, which included preserved and taxidermied animals, skeletons, mysterious fossils, fantastic corals, and beautiful seashells. Beginning in the 1500s, Europeans began assembling individual collections of natural and man-made objects and filling their “cabinets of curiosities” with specimens that gave them a sense of wonder about the world and satisfied their fascination with oddities. Wonder chambers, Wunderkammen, like those of Levin Vincent evolved over the centuries into modern museums.
When I walk around the halls of a museum, I have experiences like those of learning about the world I had in childhood. It is an inspirational feeling. Beyond the great art museums of the world, some of my favorites include medical museums and museums of natural history. The Museo la Specola in Florence, Italy, with its rooms full of eighteenth-century wax anatomical figures, is breathtaking. The surreal atmosphere of the mysterious old rooms is exhilarating to me. There is a medical museum in Thailand containing some of the strangest displays I have ever seen. (Things I find to be “strange” I also often find to be elevating.) I frequently go to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, where a death trap for prehistoric mammals has become a treasure trove of fossils. I could spend days walking around New York’s natural history museum with its Hall of Biodiversity, where on a single wall you can see the range of life forms on earth from diatoms to monkeys. I stand there in humble awe of the variety of strange creatures that coexist on this planet. Museums are places any person can go to quietly contemplate and be filled with a sense of wonder. When I am in these places, I feel like making paintings.