Past Event

Stephanie Reitzig - Crafting Nature: Material Practices in the Writings of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

February 23, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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Event Description

Centering on the work of German artist and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, this talk foregrounds Merian’s manipulation of plants’ and insects’ materiality in raising, portraying, and preserving insects and producing other depictions of natural things. Stephanie Reitzig probes how Merian’s creation of art and textiles honed her attentiveness to the material properties of plants and insects and their potential to yield useful and commercially valuable products (namely, silk, pigments, and dyes). she further considers how Merian’s insects repeatedly confounded her efforts to engineer and exploit their materiality as she attempted to raise and preserve them. This material perspective differs from most scholarship on Merian, which either undertakes a visual analysis of her images or examines her texts from history of science and/or postcolonial viewpoints. These divergent approaches simultaneously reflect and perpetuate a dichotomous view of “art” and “science” in Merian’s work. By considering both Merian’s experiments with insects and her creation of art objects as material practices, Stephanie Reitzig undermines such a binary, illuminating how these were neither competing nor even complementary, but rather contiguous pursuits.

Event Speaker

Stephanie Reitzig, graduate student in history

Event Information

Open to Columbia University ID holders. Please email Julia Tomasson at [email protected] to register and receive the paper. 

Hosted by the Science Studies Working Group.