Curtains, Marguerite Perret, 2008

Biology meets the
consumer ecosystem

Niche is a mixed media installation by Marguerite Perret and Bruce Scherting, in collaboration with Betsy Knabe Roe.

On exhibition through February, 2009.
Hours: 10 am - 2 pm, Tues - Sat.
Across the street from the KU Natural History Museum at The Commons, Spooner Hall
1340 Jayhawk Boulevard
University of Kansas.

Commons Common Ground.
Uncommon Ideas.
Common Good.

The word niche is from the old French for nest. In contemporary usage, it can refer to the place an organism occupies in an ecosystem, or the place a product holds in what marketing professionals sometimes call the consumer ecosystem. The exhibition Niche encompasses both associations.
The work on display is a hybrid of consumer culture and the natural world.
Images evoking the tree of life as a symbolic construct and as an illustration of natural selection pervade the installation. The result is suggestive of a strange fairy tale in which the beautiful and peculiar occupy the same space. Upon entering the main room, a colonnade of tree-like forms radiate from the center columns. These "trees" mimic the natural but retain their material PVC pipe characteristics.

Marguerite Perret and Bruce Scherting, 2008

On either side of the room, roots made from 5,000 plastic shopping bags stuffed with junk mail appear to be growing through the walls.

Plastic Roots
Betsy Knabe Roe, 2008

In an alcove, a water buffalo breaks through a river of purified bottled water, composed of 2,472 plastic bottles.

Marguerite Perret and Bruce Scherting, 2008

Within the apse, a series of 17 faux stained glass windows combine photographs of specimens from the Natural History Museum with reconfigured icons of human development from a 100 mile radius of Lawrence, KS.

Click below to see a gallery of apse artwork.

Marguerite Perret, 2008

Niche: Nature morte in the simulated garden is made possible by a generous gift to the Hall Center for the Humanities from Elizabeth Schultz, KU Professor Emerita of English. The exhibition is sponsored by the Commons, a partnership between the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Spencer Museum of Art, and the Biodiversity Institute.

Understanding the global commons—the shared physical, biological and cultural resources of the planet—is the grand challenge facing society in the 21st century.  Our response to this challenge is the Commons at the University of Kansas, a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts and humanities.

For more information about The Commons, contact:

Jordan Yochim, Acting Director
785-864-2343 or

For more information about Niche, contact:

Marguerite Perret
Assistant Professor of Art
Washburn University
Bruce Scherting
Director of Exhibits and Design
Museum Studies Instructor
KU Natural History Museum
KU Biodiversity Institute

Comments or questions may be directed to the assistant director for public programs.
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