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Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational”) scientific methods and “subjective” (“irrational”) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on sixteenth-century Wunderkabinetts, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.
Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucida Art Award (2008). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). Neukom Vivarium (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning laboratory for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum, and Dion recently completed OCEANOMANIA: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas for the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. He is the co-director of Mildred's Land, an innovative visual arts education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.
For over two decades Dion has worked in the public realm on a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to print projects in newspaper. Some of his most recent large-scale public projects include The Amateur Ornithologist Clubhouse, a Captain Nemo-like interior constructed in a vast gas tank in Essen, Germany; The Hanging Garden, a vertical garden made in collaboration with the landscape design firm Gross Max in central London; and Den, a “folly” in Norway's mountainous landscape that features a massive sculpture of a sleeping bear resting on a hill composed of material culture from the Neolithic era to the present.
Dion is currently working with the architectural firm of James Corner/Field Operations and Creative Time on the redesign of the Seattle Waterfront. This includes the development of a long-term visual art strategy for the site as well as establishing large-scale permanent ecological interventions.
Dion lives in New York City with his wife and frequent collaborator, Dana Sherwood.