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Miranda's Titanotheres

© Copyright Alessandra Kelley

In a dark, dramatically-lit modern museum room, all tilted lucite boxes and angled lucite walls, an assortment of giant prehistoric mammal skulls and a few skeletons, the shadows and reflections of their ribs slicing the light into orange and yellow and blue shapes, and dimly lit at a console a blurred small girl, the stripes on her shirt blending into the ribs and reflections.

This is one of the rooms of skeletons in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago (or rather it was, the space having been redesigned in the interim).

I've long been interested in the effects of colored lights, of reflections and translucency. This room, with its dimly lit lucite boxes of massive skulls and skeletons of prehistoric mammals, caught my fancy.

The painting was done in egg tempera on a black chalk gesso ground. I find the use of opaque colors on black produces a glowing effect of light in the darkness.

Charles R. Knight's magnificent murals of prehistoric life occupy the upper reaches of the walls (It was interesting to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York and recognize huge photoprints of Chicago's own murals adorning its walls.). The visible edges of the murals depict Orohippus (tiny horse ancestors) and Stylemis (Oligocene tortoises).