The Inner Lives Of Things

Denver photographer John Bonath doesn’t just take pictures. Nor is he a photographer necessarily obsessed with process. In addition to being a camera artist, Bonath is part pictorial set designer, part dreamer and part imaginative mind-bender, who spins gold from ordinary and often disparate materials and slaps them on the wall. The resulting images, and especially their stories, somehow look into the soul of every subject, exposing a myriad of impressions that we, as viewers, might never have otherwise seen.

When an artist like that is set loose in the hidden-away collections of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where thousands of specimens are kept in drawers, you just know that magic is going to happen. And it did: Bonath’s three-floor exhibit of 62 works based mostly on what he found in those collections is on display through next February.

He looked through things that even the curators couldn’t make head or tail of. “It was such an adrenaline rush,” says Bonath. “I was able to take things out of there to the studio, as they had no real rules about it. Some objects I’d request would baffle them. They were beautiful things to photograph, but they don’t see them as having value. For instance, I used a tub of snake sheds. I did a paper-wasp nest. People bring things in, and they’re of no value to the museum scientists.”

Tonight at 7 p.m., Bonath, with DMNS zoology collections manager Jeff Stephenson providing a scientific counterpoint, will discuss his work and why he chose the items he did in a lecture titled “A Strange Beauty: The Stories Behind the Art”; for tickets, $12 to $15, visit or call 303-322-7009.
Tue., Oct. 25, 7 p.m., 2011