"My aim is to describe the world as I see it. One could also say my aim is to describe what’s not tangible and understandable with our everyday senses." – Steffen Dam
Inspired by the natural world, Steffen Dam’s unique works take the form of collections of imaginary specimens.
Dam learned about the natural world from his paternal grandfather, a dedicated reader of natural history, whose library was filled with illustrated volumes on biology, natural sciences, and flora and fauna. Dam’s botanically influenced sculptures have been compared with the lampworked flowers of Leopold Blaschka (1822–1895) and Rudolf Blaschka (1857–1939), the drawings of the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), and even the specimens collected by the famous Danish collector Ole Worm (1588–1655), whose Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Wonders, was renowned in its day.
However, unlike these well-known figures of science, Dam does not imitate the natural world. He creates the specimens in his jars and cabinets of curiosities from memory, embracing spontaneity and unexpected results. He says, “My cylinders contain nothing that exists in the ocean; my specimens are plausible, but not from this world; my plants are only to be found in my compost heap; and my flowers are still unnamed.”
Trained in technical engineering, Dam began his career as a metal tool and die maker. Because he was interested in exploring other materials, he built a ceramics studio and then a glass studio. Dam’s work involves a variety of glassforming techniques, including blowing, casting, fusing, engraving, cutting, and drilling.
In Flower Block, the 24 blocks contain the artist’s interpretation of the different parts of a flower. Dam’s sculptures emphasize the exploration of process and material, and his work resonates in the context of the Museum’s historical collections. Although these sculptures are related to the history of botanically inspired expressions in glass, they are contemporary in concept and execution.