‘I Really Love Stuff’: Watch Artist Mark Dion Shop for Flea-Market Finds to Build His Eclectic Visions of the Natural World

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Mark Dion at The Explorers Club. ©PatrickMcMullan Mireya Acierto.

Mark Dion is equal parts artist, anthropologist, scientist, and explorer. His work is predicated on our understanding of the natural world, and history, particularly as it is shaped through public institutions like museums and libraries. His often anomalous, funny, and acerbic visions of the world, which he builds thanks to a never-ending trove of found objects, questions the way these stories are told.

“I really love stuff,” Dion said in an interview in 2007 for the Art21 series “Art in the Twenty-First Century.” “I am constantly out there buying things, going to flea markets, yard sales, and junk stores, and I like to surround myself with things that are inspirational.”

In the episode titled “Ecology,” Dion appears in the midst of bringing a fallen tree, called a “nurse log,” into the heart of urban Seattle, where it once stood tall. He describes the process as “returning it, almost as a kind of reminder.”

Mark Dion’s The Field Station of the Melancholy Marine Biologist (2017-18). Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. Photo by Jerry L. Thompson.

In a new exhibition at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, Dion’s series of “Follies” are brought together for the first time in a sprawling, multi-part show. The architectural folly is a structure that serves no purpose beyond its aesthetic appeal—though for Dion it’s an opportunity to show off his years of accumulated trinkets and treasures. The show will include more than 10 of his follies, situated across the 500-acre outdoor museum in the Hudson Valley.

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Mark Dion: Follies is on view at Storm King Art Center from May 4–November 11, 2019. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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