Michele Oka Doner
Into the Mysterium
OCTOBER 12, 2017 – JANUARY 14, 2018
Michele Oka Doner (American, b. 1945
Electricity,, 2017
Archival pigment print, 15 x 22 ½ inches.
© Michele Oka Doner

 

Fascinated with order, artist Michele Oka Doner is captivated by humanity’s desire to collect and arrange, as well as by our compulsive need to create taxonomies and impose names, thereby bringing regimentation and predictability to an otherwise messy and uneasy world. The artist is equally enthralled by Nature, a palimpsest on which all creatures’ passage through the mortal realm is written. For Oka Doner, even the simple act of taking a walk represents a remarkable opportunity to immerse oneself in the spirit of a place and to allow time to collapse in on itself. Thus, she sees in twigs, stones, pebbles, leaves, sticks, seeds, pods, shells, and husks vestigial remnants of a world that is both eternal and fleeting. With her Midas touch, the artist transforms what others might call detritus into works that are notable both for their material beauty as well as their intellectual impact. They equally speak to her deep interest in civilization’s push-pull relationship with Nature (which ultimately bows before no one) as well as the paper-thin membrane separating order from chaos.

It is against this background that one must consider Michele Oka Doner’s collaboration with the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS): Into the Mysterium. Born of an ostensibly straight-forward fact-checking visit to RSMAS’s Marine Invertebrate Museum in 2004, this compelling project is the fruit of Oka Doner’s enchantment with the hidden museum and its 93,000 specimen jars. Into the Mysterium features fifty-five unique photographs from RSMAS’s Marine Invertebrate Museum. Never before exhibited publicly, each magnetically beautiful work measures 15” H x 22.5” W and is presented in a custom-frame, painted and stained by the artist. This exhibition also premieres Oka Doner’s new four-channel video installation, Mysterium Alive (run time: approximately 10 mins.), which creates an immersive, enveloping experience for viewers and furthers the aesthetic and sensory impact of this compelling presentation. An important collaborative project, Into the Mysterium deftly navigates disciplinary boundaries and provides a wealth of opportunities for cross-curricular dialogues.