Cynthia Mulcahy
A Field Guide to Flora and Fauna of Southern Dallas

The Dallas History and Archive Division of the Dallas Public Library; Dallas, Texas
October 27, 2018 – January 31, 2019

From the Dallas Public Library:

Cynthia Mulcahy created her “field guide” in fly-poster form, heavy on the history of place, after being astounded by the variety of flora and wildlife she discovered while exploring the fields, creeks, rivers and woods of southern Dallas near her home armed with only a cheap pair of $20 binoculars. In Mulcahy’s own words, “It’s all out there… be it thousands of butterflies floating in the sunbeams of the Great Trinity Forest, a grove of century-old pecan trees near the Trinity in one of Dallas’ most historic black parks, or a flock of White Ibis in silent flight over a chain of wetland ponds, a spectacular amount of flora and fauna exists right here in our urban backyard.”

The field guide — supported by a public art grant from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and Judy Vetter — was mass-produced as a free fly-poster and distributed to eighteen Dallas Public Library branches, Dallas Park Department recreation centers, and City of Dallas cultural centers in southern Dallas last fall, 2017.

The exhibition now on the 7th floor, a second iteration of the field guide public art project, includes delicate watercolor illustrations of fauna Mulcahy created for the original guide and select flora specimens collected during the artist’s research. Also curated into the mix are library books — butterfly encyclopedias, Texas dragonfly and bird guides, books on American trees and Texas grasses, a catalogue of the work of 17th-century botanical artist Maria Sibylla Merian, and the like — that initially informed Mulcahy’s research.

The exhibition also includes early Dallas flora and fauna history in the form of documents, letters, vintage cabinet card photographs and farm implements the artist has selected from the early Dallas La Réunion immigrant history holdings of the Dallas History & Archives Santerre and Cretien Family Collection. Additionally, rare books related to flora and fauna from the Dallas Public Library’s impressive Fine Book Collection are displayed in the adjoining Kenneth B. Jonsson Gallery, such as John James Audubon’s Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories, 1840-44, considered to be the greatest commercial success of any color plate book published in the 19th century.

To learn more, click here. 

To view another iteration of the field guide, click here and read more about it here.