Los Angeles, CA (November 30, 2023) — The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced that artists Saul Becker, Lauren Schoth, and an artists’ team including Yesenia Prieto, RFX1 (Jason Chang), and Joel Fernando, have been selected to create installations in a habitat diorama hall at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park as part of the exhibition Reframing Dioramas: The Art of Preserving Wilderness opening in September 2024. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of NHM’s diorama halls, the exhibition explores the complicated history and unique artistry of the habitat diorama and is presented in a newly restored diorama hall that has been closed to the public for decades.
“Dioramas inspire wonder and encourage discovery and open-ended exploration. Reframing Dioramas will critically reexamine the legacy of dioramas and reaffirm our commitment to the art form,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. “The artists chosen to help us explore the power and artistry of dioramas will bring their own unique insights to a historic diorama hall. We welcome their exciting perspective on this century-old exhibition practice.”
NHM’s historic diorama halls showcase more than 75 incredibly detailed habitats from arctic tundra to tropical rainforest. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dioramas, NHM will restore and reopen a diorama hall that has been closed for decades. There, visitors will experience immersive new installations that call attention to dioramas as a unique combination of art and science that explores biodiversity, ecology, conservation, colonialism, and changing museum display techniques. Visitors will be inspired to examine these illusions of wilderness through a series of displays, engaging programs, and a new book titled Fabricating Wilderness: The Habitat Dioramas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which sheds light on the previously untold history of NHM's dioramas.
Contemporary artists were invited to submit proposals that re-envision the ways in which we can present habitats within or related to the context of dioramas. The three proposals chosen from submissions include digital art, painting, and mixed media installations that explore the habitats, landscapes, and species of the Los Angeles region.
Special Species proposed by Yesenia Prieto, RFX1 (Jason Chang), and Joel Fernando will showcase a variety of handcrafted alebrije (Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures who represent the spirit world and our connection to nature) made from recycled materials in an amalgamation of California's biomes. It will create an immersive experience that changes with day/night cycles and seasons, featuring spirit animals representing different seasons.
The Ever-Changing Flow is a multimedia diorama of the ecological evolution of the Los Angeles River, proposed by Lauren Schoth. It will draw an emotional connection to the terrain and stoke a curiosity to discover how the Los Angeles River has transformed from a biodiverse ecosystem to a channelized concrete jungle.
This immersive installation depicts the L.A. River throughout different epochs and will merge a meticulously crafted foreground inspired by a fluvial terrace with state-of-the-art extended reality technologies, including 3D scene rendering, immersive sound design, and forced-perspective projection mapping.
Saul Becker has proposed A Peculiar Garden, which is a reference to the energy that goes into organizing our environment, both thoughtfully and absent-mindedly. The diorama presents a strange crystalline mise-en-scene, inviting visitors to appreciate its eerie beauty and the artificiality of nature in frozen stasis, symbolizing a possible future. Elements include taxidermy specimens drinking from polluted waters, an upturned and burnt tree trunk, electroplated plants (both native and invasive to Los Angeles), a graffiti-covered boulder, and amethyst specimens.
About the artists:
Saul Becker lives and works in Burien, Washington. In addition to numerous solo exhibitions with Horton Gallery in Chelsea, New York, his work has been featured at Artists Space, the Horticultural Society of New York, and Socrates Sculpture Park, among others. He received a MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, and a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD); Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The artist is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Art Fellowship, the Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship and a NYFA Fellowship. He has been artist in residence at Bemis Center on Contemporary Art, Steep Rock Arts, The Arctic Circle 2010 Expedition, Gros Morne Artist Residency and the Shandaken Residency in the Catskills, NY.
Jason Chang, known as RFX1, is a California native artist whose artistic path was cultivated by his Korean immigrant family. He was raised in the diverse San Fernando Valley, where it inspired his multicultural outlook in his works. He was able to delve deeper into his artistic pursuits by attending ArtCenter College of Design and earning his BFA in Illustration/Design. He then honed in on his craft by developing a unique style, which he calls Visionary Pop Art (Vision Pop). This style is an exploration of astrology, numerology, and cosmology as a spiritual foundation with some kind of positive message within it.
This resulted in a diverse body of work that encompasses mixed media paintings, digital art, installation work, and eye-catching public art murals. His larger-than-life murals can be seen all over SoCal, and his most prominent projects can be seen in Pomona and Koreatown, becoming integral parts of the urban landscape. RFX1’s commitment to making art accessible has led to collaborations with various cities within LA county, council members, and the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea. He is also a member of the nationwide Korean American Artist Collective where he contributes to uplifting and continuing his heritage, which has become an important aspect of his work in recent years.
Joel Fernando, an artist, tech entrepreneur, and creative professional based in Los Angeles, skillfully blends academia, multimedia, and technology in the entertainment industry. With a background in Communication Studies and Film Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, as well as a master's degree in Media Management from Columbia College Chicago, Joel has excelled as a creative producer, editor, and writer. His work has left its mark on digital giants like Buzzfeed, Viacom, Slate, Wired, and Super Deluxe.
Joel's creative journey extended into feature film marketing at Netflix and TPG, where he worked on dozens of global projects from ideation to key art, trailers, and beyond. His talent isn't confined to screens; he's a multimedia artist with immersive installations and video mapping projects featured in renowned institutions. A tech enthusiast, Joel also founded Cause Effect Studios, focusing on innovative project management tools and video game development. Beyond work, he explores street photography, DIY projects, music production, and diverse creative outlets, consistently pushing boundaries and making an indelible mark on the industry.
Yesenia Prieto was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a designer and founder of the Pinata Design Studio. Armed with an AS degree in General Business, Marketing, and Logistics as well as artistry passed down to her from generations of entrepreneurs, pinata designers, and sculptors, she stands as a visionary at the forefront of a remarkable cultural renaissance. Starting in the year 2012, she quickly harnessed her artistic skill and entrepreneurial spirit and has since managed larger-than-life installation projects for companies and museums such as LACMA, Microsoft, Google, and celebrities such as international pop star Rhianna. Her relentless efforts have successfully rekindled the public's interest in pinata-making, inspiring a new generation to embrace and engage with this unique art form. Having her works featured in prestigious galleries, museums, and mainstream media outlets has allowed her to showcase this captivating art in a truly special manner. Beyond the realm of artistry, Yesenia's influence extends into the heart of communities. She has organized workshops, community events, and fruitful collaborations with local schools, reaching thousands of individuals who have rediscovered the sheer joy of crafting and celebrating with piñatas.
Los Angeles native Lauren Schoth, brings over a decade of expertise to the realm of live production. Lauren’s creations captivate audiences by combining cutting-edge technologies with the graceful art of storytelling. Graduating Summa Cum Laude from Penn State University with a BA in Digital Multimedia Design, Lauren honed her skills in concept development, visual design, and strategic planning.
Beyond her work, Lauren is deeply passionate about engaging communities through the immersive power of digital multimedia experiences. She aims to inspire positive change around health, regenerative solutions, human rights and more. Lauren is a multifaceted professional committed to artistic excellence, community connection, and unrivaled innovation.
About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) include the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. They operate under the collective vision to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—more than 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historical research, the museums also incorporate them into on- and offsite nature and culture exploration in L.A. neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs—creating indoor-outdoor visitor experiences that explore the past, present, and future. Visit NHMLAC.ORG for adventure, education, and entertainment opportunities.
About PST ART
Southern California’s landmark arts event, PST ART, returns in September 2024 with more than 60 exhibitions from museums and other institutions across the region, all exploring the intersections of art and science, both past and present. Dozens of cultural, scientific, and community organizations will join the latest edition, PST ART: Art & Science Collide, with exhibitions on subjects ranging from ancient cosmologies to Indigenous sci-fi, and from environmental justice to artificial intelligence. Art & Science Collide will share groundbreaking research, create indelible experiences for the public, and generate new ways of understanding our complex world. Art & Science Collide follows Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (September 2017–January 2018), which presented a paradigm-shifting examination of Latin American and Latinx art, and Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 (October 2011–March 2012), which rewrote the history of the birth and impact of the L.A. art scene. PST ART is presented by Getty. For more information about PST ART: Art & Science Collide, please visit: pst.art