As a child, Danish artist Steffen Dam loved poring over his grandparents’ collection of scientific books and cabinets of insects. This fascination of how we catalogue and understand the natural world followed through to his artistic glass career, where Dam creates highly detailed “Cabinets of Curiosities” that mimic oceanic specimens suspended in glass jars and plates. The pieces are usually displayed inside light boxes to better illuminate every minute detail from the fragile tentacles of a jellyfish to a flourish of bubbles that seem to dance around many of his specimens.
A quote from David Revere McFadden’s essay Between Art and Nature, The Glass of Steffen Dam:
Steffen Dam invites the viewer to relish the sheer beauty of his “specimens,” but also to reflect on the meaning of nature as a mirror of the human mind and spirit. Dam has “captured” nature in his work, but he assiduously avoids simple imitation of life; the artist shies away from what he refers to as “cheap tricks in glass.” He seeks to strike a “balance between fiction and reality.” While his work is in no way intended to serve as pedagogic tools, as specimens in “cabinets of curiosities” often were, they are intended to engage the eye and stimulate the imagination. Knowledge about the forms, structures, surfaces, and colors of true natural specimens is not to be found in Dam’s displays of crystal cylinders, but another kind of knowledge—that of the visual poetry of endlessly varied forms—is freely offered. Dam’s little creatures, although frozen in glass, remind of how we read and feel both time and change.