Peggy MacNamara

March 7th, 2013

John Manion is the chef for the April 1, 2013 Dinner Party at Chicago City winery, featuring guests Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering, Peggy MacNamara, the only artist in residence at the Field Museum, and Brian Babylon, comedian and host on The opening act is Ted Seymour, resident choreographer at Ballet Chicago and the food is paired with wine from City Winery and Chocolate by Vosges. Get tix here. 

Click on the link to listen to an in-depth interview with Peggy MacNamara at the Field Museum by Elysabeth Alfano for WBEZ.

My work is about the study of nature. I hesitate putting myself in such a grand tradition, but there it is.  I admire those that have gone before and find myself studying old techniques while pushing in new directions. Unlike science where those that follow build on the knowledge discovered before them, artists seem to emulate and eventually grow into the concerns of their time. I believe that by looking carefully at the entirety of nature I will learn to see better and gather an understanding of form and color that will make me a better artist.

Thirty years ago, I went to the Field Museum in Chicago to draw the Hoffmann Sculptures in order to improve my drawing skills.  Instead I found endless subject matter, a community, and a purpose for my work. I moved from Oriental artifacts, to birds, mammals, reptiles and insects, drawing daily from the exhibit areas.  I also wandered through areas of the museum painting oddities like tiny Tibetan statuary and the South American Shrunken heads.  I eventually moved behind the scenes into the collection areas where I did the “Illinois Insects” and “Architecture by Birds and Insects” books.  The adventure extended to outside the museum to collaborate with scientists in Madagascar, Africa, Central and South America, Alaska and other places enabling me to put my studies into context.  Much of the last ten years have been spent publishing my images with the intent to share with the lay community a better understanding of the world around us.   At present we are working on a book about the Illinois flyway and the migrations of birds and insects through our area.  For 30 years the museum has been collecting and receiving bird specimens which have hit buildings during migration.  Dave Willard from the Field Museum has been recording these findings and the 30 or so plates I have done have been under his direction.  It is an honor to collaborate with scientists and give my paintings the truth and accuracy necessary to herald the wonders of nature.


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