The Taxonomy of Peggy Macnamara

March 9–April 28, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 9, 4–7 p.m.

The Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces’ Glass Curtain Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Peggy Macnamara. Come celebrate the opening on Thursday, March 9 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the artist will be present.

The Taxonomy of Peggy Macnamara features an immense array of artwork that has been created during Macnamara’s tenure as the only artist in residence at the Field Museum. This exhibition focuses on her relationship to observing and working among the collections over decades where practice as an artist, teacher, and collaborator has developed a process of long looking that has created a taxonomy of its own.  

Macanamara has traveled across the world, geared with her pencils and watercolors, investigating the fascinating intricacies of nature alongside scientists and peers from the Field Museum. Although her work uses the academic approach of illustrating, her savvy is evident in her loose handling of her art materials to document plants, animals, and related conservation work. Macanamara’s work artfully captures living things (or in some cases—once living), educates us, and sparks interest in the complexities of the natural world.

This exhibition hones in on a tapestry of works that inspire curiosity and deep looking at plants, animals, and the dynamic relationships between them. Macanamara’s attention to detail, and skilled hand at analytically dissecting plants and animals is revealed through the works that leave the stages of the development of a piece visible. We engage with her work for the love of looking, but inevitably discussions about nature, extinction, conservation, and collections permeate its surface. Come take a peek behind the scenes of the Field Museum’s collections through Macnamara’s work, and through special tours accompanying this exhibition.

During the run of The Taxonomy of Peggy Macnamara, a full-color catalog will be issued that includes essays by DEPS Executive Director, Meg Duguid and Senior Exhibitions Coordinator, Mark Porter. This exhibition runs from March 9 through April 28, 2023, with a catalog release party on Thursday, April 27 from 4–7 p.m. Public programing includes an artist talk on demystifying watercolor on Saturday, April 8 at 1 p.m., and two chances for a Behind the Scenes Tour at the Field Museum on Thursday, March 23 at 1 p.m., and Saturday, April 22 at 1 p.m.

This project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. 

Glass Curtain Gallery—Columbia College Chicago
1104 S Wabash Ave, 1st Floor, Chicago, IL 60605
Gallery Hours: Monday–Wednesday, Friday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.    

Please note: For entry into DEPS spaces, masks are required.

Saturday, April 8, 1 p.m.
Demystifying Watercolor Artist Talk
The Conaway (next to the Glass Curtain Gallery): 1104 S. Wabash Ave.
In an effort to debunk common misconceptions about watercolor, Peggy Macnamara will talk about and demonstrate the techniques she uses to create her work. 

Saturday, April 22, 1 p.m.
Behind the Scenes Tours at the Field Museum
Attendance is limited to 20 people, RSVP required
Field Museum: 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. (meet at the south entrance).

Thursday, April 27, 4–7 p.m.
Closing Reception and Catalog Release Party
Glass Curtain Gallery: 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

DEPS is proud to present the DEPS Artist Profile Series featuring Peggy Macnamara. The DEPS Artist Profile Series is managed by DEPS Exhibitions Assistant Gallery Coordinator Ziccy Delamarter. Graphic design is managed by DEPS Exhibitions Social Media Assistant Coordinator Rachel Manlubatan. To view this interactive document featuring an artist interview click on the image below

Watercolor painting featuring a sunset with a flock of birds flying from right to left

Peggy Macnamara started going to the Field Museum in the 1980’s. She went each morning to draw for 3-4 hours. Back then there was free parking just north of the front of the museum. She began in the China exhibits on the second-floor mezzanine. She eventually moved into the Birds-Mammals exhibits. By carefully observing nature, she not only became a strong draughtsman, but she also developed a color sense as well as compositional instincts. Behind the Scenes is a particular and unique series, it is the result of slow observation—and it reflects the fact that persistent work can unearth a buried concept, teach composition, color theory, patience and self-forgiveness for each, and every setback. The Field Museum itself is an inspiration, presenting easy access to science and nature, which are central to artistic expression. During her tenure at the Field Museum Macnamara has had numerous solo and group exhibitions and has authored many books including Illinois Insects and Spiders, Architecture by Birds and Insects, The Art of Migration, The Peregrine Returns, and From the Seashore to the Seafloor published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Exhibition Contact: Mark Porter / / 312-369-6643