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Intrinsecus, 2010

Jennifer Trask

Look closely at this nature-inspired wall installation from MAD’s collection. Consider how the natural sciences intersect with the history of collecting and curate your own cabinet of curiosities in this lesson for grades 5 and up.


Artist Jennifer Trask draws inspiration from the sciences to create sculpture and wearable jewelry out of natural materials and found objects. The title of this work, Intrinsecus, is a Latin word that translates to “internally” or “from within.” Look closely at her wall installation and consider:

  • What is happening inside the frame? What about outside?
  • Which materials appear man-made? Which objects can be found in nature?
  • In what ways have the natural objects been manipulated by the artist?

The botanical elements in this wall installation are entirely made from animal bones.

  • How does knowing the material of the artwork change your interpretation of it?
  • Why might an artist choose to work with this material?


Trask is influenced by the instrumentation and aesthetics of early sciences, as well as the actual methodologies of collection and display. She says, “I am fascinated by the Wunderkammer and Victorian Curios, the displays of odd exotic items in vitrines [that were] meant to impress viewers with one's passion for, and command of, nature itself.”

Wunderkammer (which translated means “wonder rooms”) and Victorian Curios were cabinets in which collectors would display wondrous objects. A phenomenon in Europe from the 16th century through the 19th century, these personal collection displays were a precursor to museums.

Read about cabinets of curiosities.

  • What did the collectors gather?
  • How were the objects categorized?
  • How were they displayed?
  • What are some contemporary examples of cabinets of curiosity?


Nature is the medium and subject of Trask’s artworks. She states that “the flora and fauna, the accidental cultivars, as I like to call them, are very specifically about how we manage nature, how we see ourselves as separate. We have been more or less curating natural features, plants and animals, often with unexpected results.”

  • In what ways do humans “manage” and “curate” nature?
  • Knowing how Trask views our treatment of nature, what might be the significance of the frame in Intrinsecus?


What kinds of objects fascinate you? What is something that you are passionate about and want to display for others to see? Create a visual collection to show your passion.

Option 1: Use images that you can find in magazines or online. Cut them out and arrange them on a piece of paper to create a collage. Think about how you want to organize your images. Which objects will you group together? Why do they interest you? Consider writing labels to help others understand your visual collection.

Option 2: Go on a walk and collect natural specimens, such as leaves, twigs, seeds, or flowers that you find interesting. Remember to be respectful: avoid damaging plants and take only what you need. Next, download and print out this frame template. Arrange your natural specimens on the printout to create your own nature-inspired collage. Use glue or tape to secure your composition.

Jennifer Trask (United States, b. 1970)
Intrinsecus, 2010
Wood, bone, antler, silver, gold leaf
52 x 82 x 10 in. (132.1 x 208.3 x 25.4 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design, New York; purchase with funds provided by Marian Burke, Marion C. Fulk, Mimi S. Livingston, Selwyn and Laura Oskowitz, the Rothbaum Fund, the World Expo fund, and the Museum of Arts and Design Collections Committee, 2010

This Object Lesson is adapted from our Re: Collection Teacher Resource Packet written by Kristen Scarola.

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