Above are pictures of other works by the artist
2004-06, mixed media. Greenhouse structure: 80 feet long. Gift of the Neukom family, SAM acquisition funds and other donors. Mark Dion is an artist who pushes the definition of that word. He is known for works that can seem to be more about archaeology or nature than traditional art-making. That hasn't kept major museums such as the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York from commissioning projects from him.
This "Vivarium" houses a 60-foot chunk of fallen tree removed from a Washington forest. In a natural setting, the log would simply decay and provide a home for plants, insects and birds. Now, in its custom greenhouse, it requires a climate-control system to keep it properly growing. You can observe its living surface using the microscopes and magnifying glasses provided inside, and see wall tiles featuring drawings of the flora and fauna by local illustrators
Once Dion was asked what makes this art rather than science. "No one from the scientific community would say this is science," he replied. "Maybe it will end up being art by default. I think most people will be less hung up with 'Is it art?' and more like, 'Is it interesting?' I hope people will find it worthy of contemplation. I hope they will find it has a particular beauty. It's about birth and death and renewal."