011818: From the Museums

Snow and cold outside. Another opportunity to dig back into the archives. The last two posts contained images from museums and they obviously contained fossils that were finished to the finest standards – very different from my usual finds. I like the aesthetics of each for different reasons.

So this week I decided to continue an exploration of my museum shoots and see what I might have missed the first time around. Most of today’s images are newly worked and there is much more there to be mined!

Here are five sets of images – three in each – from five different museum collections. The first three images (above) are from the collection of the Paleontological Research Institution in Trumansburg NY.

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The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven CT

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The New York State Museum, Albany NY

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The Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy, Paris, France

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The Natural History Museum of Florence, Florence, Italy

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Thanks for the visit.

110316: On Edge

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Restless, edgy, anxious – that sums up my feelings lately. I assume that many of you are feeling it too. Will the ugliness and nastiness of this election season end next week or will it continue unabated? Democracy, decency, and the common good are very much at stake. A carnival barker con man has captured the attention of many who hope and wish for a return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet (and worse!). Please vote and vote wisely.

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Fortunately for me, my restlessness is always eased when I get out and walk the surrounding forest and creeks. Today’s images are the result of one of those strolls along Kaaterskill Creek. There are always new things to discover. And Tuesday’s walk was an exceptional one in that regard. The image above was a puzzler to me – a crinoid stem with a curl to it. My thanks to Dr. George McIntosh, Director of Collections at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who suggested it to be a crinoid subset called Melocrinites. The little “button” below is a crinoid ossicle, a crosscut of a its stem.

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These next three images show a Zoophycos trace fossil, burrowing made by a marine worm. Four hundred million year old designs in nature! Thanks to my friend Dr. Chuck ver Straeten from the NY State Museum in Albany for that information.

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A gastropod followed by a variety of brachiopod bits rounds things out.

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These two are puzzlers to me – nothing I’ve seen before. Any ideas on these two images would be welcome to hear. Please let me know.

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I even managed to find some old graffiti – hard to read. But I was able to read the date as 1879.

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I’ll end with this image of one of the large rock slabs that make up the creek bed. I was struck by the play between the rippled pattern in the rock and the rippled water passing nearby.

Thanks for the visit. Don’t forget to vote.

0212: A Museum Experience

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I have two groups of new images today. One is part of my ongoing exploration of the marine invertebrate fossils abundant in the immediate area. The other is a bit of rule-breaking – shooting where conditions don’t normally allow. As often can happen when disregarding the rules, interesting visual possibilities arise.

So let’s start with this mix of gastropods, brachiopods and coral:

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I had a conversation recently with a friend and fellow photographer about what catches one’s eye, that demands you pick up the camera and explore. Oftentimes, it’s not the brilliant or the grandiose that is most compelling, but rather that which is nearby, sometimes even underfoot (That’s how I got started with the fossils – I kept tripping over them!). An inquisitive mind open to one’s surroundings, whatever they might be, can yield up some interesting (and fun) results.

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In this case, it was time to kill at a museum one day that led to this set of images. Wildlife dioramas, too dimly lit to shoot normally, suggested intentional blurring. Digital screens give immediate feedback. So, each capture can easily suggest the next one and the next one, etc. In my case, this  turns into a kind of intuitive choreography that develops in real time. To me the results in several of these images tend to suggest an almost feral mystery.

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I ran across this in an old folder – 1992 – That’s me on set working with the Muppets!

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Thanks for the visit.

0724: More Color From the Quarry

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The other day, needing to take a break from printing, I visited the neighborhood quarry and once again climbed through the section I was least familiar with. I’ve always avoided that area because so much of the rock was too crumbly, I thought, to find anything of substance there. But then I’m not looking for great scientific discovery. I’m happy to settle for the “visually stimulating.”

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In that sense it doesn’t disappoint. The fragility has its own appeal. And the colors are amazing! Picture 1 at the top of this post shows a brachiopod in rock, all of which has been affected by iron oxidization. Picture 2 (above) shows the result of the slightest disturbance in the rock as it quite literally falls apart. Needless to say, with such fragility, all these images were taken on site.

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Thin layers filled with various small brachiopods cut through this section of the quarry. According to my friend, Dr. Chuck Ver Straeten from the New York State Museum’s Geology Division, these layers appear every six feet or so, suggesting a regularity of geologic activity over a certain period of time. (I hope that is an accurate interpretation of what I was told – most of this stuff is still a mystery to me, I must confess!).

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Whatever the cause I’m delighted to have the open-ended opportunity to explore this area.

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Even when drained of color the fossils here seem to have a unique character.

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And then, of course, there is abundant color – no fossils – just a riot of color. The picture above shows the current quarry floor. Scale top to bottom is approximately six feet.

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This final quarry image – looking like a lightening bolt from a dark and oppressive sky – seems to echo some of the new work I will be showing at my upcoming show in Beacon on August 9. For all my friends in NYC, get out of the city for a day, visit the many galleries in Beacon (including DIA), and join me for the opening that evening from 6-9 pm.

Beacon Artist Union, 506 Main Street, Beacon, NY

And with that I’ll end today’s post with another image from that upcoming show.

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 Thanks for the visit.

032913 – Back to Normal

IMG_8825_01_LR_12Well, as “normal” as it gets around here! The past couple of days have been hinting “Spring” but the occasional snow shower seems to still lurk in the background.

IMG_8776_01_LR_12Starting to see the world come alive finally. Beavers are ramping up. Long, long “v” formations of geese fill the sky heading north. And I head down the road to one of my favorite sites – a local dry stream bed that I have written about in the past.

I finally got in a good day of climbing and digging, lifting more than I should, all in the attempt to find and photograph more fossils. As much as I enjoy exploring and shooting in the back rooms of major collections, it simply does not compare to finding these ancient objects out in nature, never having been seen before by anyone. The sore back and cracked fingertips (the normal to which I referred) are a small price to pay.

IMG_8955_01_LR_12A rather large stone sitting upright was the first object of interest I saw as I began my slow walk. All those squiggles are various parts/impressions of brachiopods. Too big to drag back to the studio so I’ll have to make more visits to see it in different light.

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These next three each came from small rock fragments.

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My good friend, Dr. Chuck ver Straeten, a sedimentary geologist at the New York State Museum (and a killer on trombone), once tipped me off to the possibility of finding fossil rock in those endless lines of stone fences throughout the area. One such fence, seen below, comes to an end at this dry bed deep in the woods. It just seemed to beckon!

IMG_8807_01_LR_10This one happens to have two rather large pieces of sandstone that provided this next series of fossils. Since these images, quite literally, just scratched the surface of these rocks, I’m sure they will provide many more interesting hours.

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A good day, all in all. I even managed to find this on the way home.

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Thank you as always for visiting this site. More images at www.artmurphy.com

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Final Thoughts – 2012

IMG_8154_02_LR_10Back in time from holiday travels to wrap up this blog for 2012. Two recent snowfalls have covered much of the Northeast with a blanket of snow (a return to a more normal winter perhaps?). It is a reminder that indoor projects will be more likely for me into the near future – there’s no upside that I can imagine to hike for fossils in snow!

img_2938_01_lr_12Fourth of July Parade, Saugerties, NY

But, before I get to them, on this last day of the year I would like to offer you my very best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year! According to my WordPress “annual report” (a great little statistics feature), this past year viewers came from seventy one countries around the world. So, whatever the time zone, have a safe and happy holiday.

img_8107_01_lr_wpDevonian Drawer: The Fool

I took some time earlier to scroll through this past year’s postings. There were 46 in all with a total number of images approaching 600! For me, so many of them fall down the “memory hole” once I’m on to the next week’s subject that it’s important to step back and review. You know – see where you’ve been – see where you’re heading. A nod to yesterday and an embrace of tomorrow.

So, here are some images from the past year that jumped out at me for a second view – not the best, not the worst, just some that hit a personal chord that I’d like to share one more time.

img_8015_02_lr_wpDevonian Drawer: Buddha with Crinoids

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img_1064_01e_lr_12Gilboa Tree: Espermatopteris

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img_5543_01_lr_10Trilobite Pygidium, Ithaca, NY

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img_8967_01a_lr_10Brachiopod, Florence Museum of Natural History

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img_9439_01a_lr_wpDevonian Drawer: Brachiopod

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img_5250_01_lr_12Crinoid, Paleontological Research Institution

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img_0097_01_lr_wpRock, Kaaterskill Creek

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img_6372dark_01_lr_10Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont, NY

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

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Ausable Chasm

Driving down the west side of Lake Champlain we ran across a place called “Ausable Chasm.” I had spotted their brochure in  a local diner, on the rack that advertises the nearest Putt-Putt, Zoom Flume, and all other attractions designed to entertain the American Family on Summer vacation. Usually, I drive right past such places, more than happy to avoid the lines, the bored kids wishing they were home with their xbox, the deep fried objects vaguely resembling food, the… you get the picture, I’m sure.

But I learned a long time ago that “tourist sites” exist for a variety of reasons (commercial opportunities often high on that list). Most important among them is the idea that there is often something very cool there to witness or experience. Well, Ausable Chasm , it turns out, is that very place. We did have some things in our favor. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Schools had not yet let out for the Summer. Best of all, Ausable Chasm tells a fascinating story of geologic history.

Thankfully, stepping on to the first trail erased any notions of “tourist hell!”  In fact, the next two plus hours were filled with wonder and amazement. First discovered in 1765, this sandstone gorge was formed nearly 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Period and claims to be one of the oldest attractions in the country. Walkways rim the Chasm, dropping down to various levels throughout its length, offering views experienced by visitors for the past one hundred forty years.

“Seneca Ray” Stoddard (whose stereoscopic views of Ausable Chasm I present here) photographed the Adirondacks during the latter part of the 1800s. While his work exposed the Adirondacks to a post – Civil War audience eager to travel, he is perhaps best remembered for his documentation of unregulated mining and logging devastation. That work led to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution. Two exhibits of his work are currently on view at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, NY.

I discovered “Seneca Ray” after our trip, and only then did I begin to match the images. In my follow up research I also discovered an 1888 catalog Stoddard shot for the Ausable folks – an interesting travelog from another time. It is downloadable as a PDF here.

Equal to the spectacle of a carved out canyon are the wonderful patterns that the rock creates. Between the layers of sediment, chemical reactions in the sandstone from age and leaching, and the strange fracturing, you’d think that someone took paint and a broad brush to the chasm walls! I’ll end this week with images from the “painted” walls interspersed with a few more views of the Chasm.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.

Gilboa Revisited

Recent Gilboa discoveries have been much in the news. Articles in Nature Magazine, the Albany Times Union, and numerous online science news sites tell of the discovery of the floor of the world’s oldest forest. It’s a fascinating story that most recently unfolded thanks to the need for repairs on the ninety year old Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County (about an hour and a half away from my home in Catskill).

The general area around Gilboa had long been known for the “Gilboa stumps,” tree fossils dating back 385 million years.  It was in 2004 when Ms Linda Hernick and Mr. Frank Mannolini, both from the New York State Museum, discovered, not more stumps, but rather fossils of the tree’s intact crown and portions of trunk.The following is a close up image of that crown (The full crown and trunk image led the blog a few weeks ago – Gilboa Meets WAAM).

It was this find that allowed scientists to see finally, for the first time, what these trees (Eospermatopteris) looked like. There’s much more to the story. Dr. Bob Titus, Professor at Hartwick College, wrote about it much better and more fully in his latest newspaper column. He also writes about the small but delightful (and informative) Gilboa Museum.

This Sunday, in fact, (July 8) the Gilboa Museum will be holding an Open House from 1 – 3 PM. According to Ms Kristen Wyckoff  the Museum will be displaying several new permanent displays (the display space has been doubled). The Open House (which I attended last year) is a wonderful piece of Americana replete with local music, homemade cookies and cakes, and generous small town goodness. So after the breakfast dishes are done and the newspapers are read on Sunday get in the car and drive out to Gilboa (directions here) – a fine way to spend the afternoon.

As for the images displayed today, a number of them can be found in the current issue (Summer, 2012) of Kaatskill Life Magazine.

All of the above images are various tree fossils from Gilboa. Those below are plant fossils from the Gilboa area. All of the fossils displayed in this post come from the collection of the New York State Museum in Albany – a world class institution and a world class collection in upstate New York.

My great thanks, as always, to Ms Linda Hernick for allowing me the time and access to the Museum’s collection. As Paleobotany Collections Manager she oversees a stunning collection that, unfortunately like so many others, is rarely seen. The research value of most collections of this type is incalculable. Hopefully, viewed through a more sympathetic and aesthetic lens, objects like these can see the light of day and find their way on to the exhibition floor.

Thanks for visiting today. I’m sure there will be pics from the Gilboa Open House coming some time soon. Next week, though, we’ll head back to Chazy Reef for a final installment featuring the Fisk Quarry Preserve. Believe it or not, the trip to Chazy Reef led us to another gem – Ausable Chasm. Plenty to tell about that in coming weeks.

Subscribe or sign up for email notification to see the final installment of the Chazy Reef story.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.

Gilboa Meets WAAM

I am happy to report that the above image, entitled Gilboa Tree Fossil, has won an award at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s upcoming show “Earth, Air, Water.” The opening is Saturday, June 16, 4-6 PM and will run for a month.

The proper name of the fossil is Eospermatopteris and it comes from the floor of the world’s oldest forest in nearby Gilboa. I’ll have much more on the topic of Gilboa in the next few weeks. In the meantime, let me tell you a few things about WAAM.

Since its establishment in 1920 it has served as a hub for art and artists throughout the wider Woodstock area. In its earlier days membership included such luminaries as George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Robert Henri, and many others. An article about Woodstock,  appearing in Life Magazine (August 22, 1938), referred to WAAM: “The ‘Local Louvre’ houses many a violent art controversy during its annual summer exhibits.” And referring to an aerial photo of the town, it went on: “In midsummer, little of Woodstock surmounts the trees except steeple of church which few artists attend. Nearly every barn is a studio.” I wonder how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

These days it’s a great place to show one’s work, and a great place to view interesting and stimulating work. While it might appear to sometimes vacillate from “venerable and creaky” to “interesting and thought provoking” (depending on one’s perspective at any given moment) it is always well worth a visit.

Summer is just about here and that means visits to other local gems. This one is the Indian Ladder Trail at Thatcher Park. The park is located on the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the best fossil-bearing formations in the entire country.

Cold ice cream. fresh local fruits and vegetables. And, thanks to my friend and neighbor, Bo, a garden that always puts on stunning displays. So, for a change, instead of fossils, I’ll end with images from that beautiful garden.

Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

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The Gilboa Forest

My good friend, Ms Linda VanAller Hernick from the New York State Museum, and her associates, are in the spotlight and part of the cover story of the March issue of Nature Magazine entitled “The Lost World.” It was their work that has led to the discovery of the floor of the world’s oldest forest. Personally for Linda “This is the culmination of a lifelong interest” as she told Paul Grondahl of the Albany Times-Union. It’s a fascinating story involving a number of scientists working together over a considerable period of time and well worth a read. I can’t do it justice so please go to any of the following links to learn more:

Albany Times-Union –  A land lost to time is big find for museum


And, of course, Nature Magazine, on the newsstands now.
I met Linda while I was working on a project involving the relationship between the Hudson River School painters of the 1800s and the “gentleman geologists” of the day. I had already photographed fossils from the “box of rocks”, as it is known, in the possession of Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historical Site. Along with a series of Catskill landscapes, taken in areas explored by the likes of Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, etc., I needed to round out the project.
Linda opened up the NYSM fossil collection to me and allowed me to photograph numerous, rare plant fossils. These beautiful, delicate fossil images became, to me, the anchor that pulled my project together. In fact, the picture above of a plant fossil (Archaeopteris) needed a background to set it off. We used one of the Gilboa tree stumps for that purpose!
What follows are images that could only have been made with Linda’s assistance and expertise:
Congratulations once again to all involved. For fossil nerds like me it’s an exciting story.
Since I brought up the Thomas Cole “box of rocks” here are a few images from that endeavor:
One final note – Last week’s post contained a cephalopod image of mine about which a scientific question was asked. My explanation fell short. So, as I often do, I turned to my good friend, Dr. Chuck ver Straeten, for a full explanation and I want to thank him for that.
Thank you for the visit. More images at www.artmurphy.com
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