Natural History is a project that involves documenting the painted backdrops on display in the dioramas at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Each of the photographs are wonderfully diffused images of what appear to be landscape photographs, but are in fact, pictures of paintings.
They are documents that defy convention. Anderson composes his images by cropping out all the animal or human figures in the diorama. In the process he creates his own landscapes derived from the 19th century paintings. The painted landscapes suggest an untamed world replete with bucolic vistas and idealized and romanticized landscapes.
The documentation of museum artifacts and systems as an art practice is not new. Mark Dion, Catherine Wagner and many others create work which allow the viewer to construct their own alternative narrative histories. Anderson's work in this vein is to confuse the boundaries of two seminal art practices, painting and photography, and re-contextualize the meaning of these grandiose images. Anderson challenges photography's piety and position as a window on the real, while displaying the naive earnestness of the painter’s intent.