Dig this: Art and science collide in new Ray Troll exhibition
Ray Troll and friends’ work comes to Alaska State Museum
Juneau Empire, May 4, 2019 by Ben Hohenstatt
Ray Troll is a paleo hipster.
The Ketchikan artist many in Southeast Alaska know for his fish pun T-shirt designs liked the Earth before it was cool and is keenly interested in underground rocks.
“I’ve been a paleo nerd for my entire life,” Troll said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “I never gave up loving dinosaurs. Everything prehistoric. For me it’s kind of a mission to get people turned on to a prehistoric past. I think it’s really important for people to know the history of the Earth.”
Troll is willing to go to the mats for lesser-known prehistoric creatures, such as the Tully monster — a confusing ancient aquatic animal that defies easy classification — and desmostylians — a line of marine mammals that went extinct. Desmostylians’ range included Alaska, and the animals are thought to have resembled a hippo-walrus hybrid.
“We call them desmos for short,” Troll said.“Only the connoisseurs of paleo nerdom know about them. Some of them were the size of elephants.”
Troll’s interest in paleontology goes as far back as he can remember. He said his earliest artistic memory is drawing a dinosaur with a crayon at age 4. “I’m 65 years old, and I’m still drawing dinosaurs,” Troll said.
That lifelong fascination helped lead to a 26-year-and-counting friendship with paleontologist Kirk Johnson, now director of the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, and an expansive fossil-hunting road trips along North America’s coast.
That 10,000-mile, 250-day trip led to “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Anchorage Museum that will be in Juneau at the Alaska State Museum through Oct. 19, and a book of the same title.
“This is the second book with Kirk,” Troll said. “We’ve probably driven around the Earth together. We’ve done trips to the Amazon and all over the west. He shared a lot of his knowledge with me and vice versa.”
Troll is an artist with evident exuberance for ancient plants and animals, and Johnson is a scientist who was once an art major.“He’s the scientist I always wanted to be, and I’m the artist he wanted to be,” Troll said. “It’s a melding of two disciplines.”
The cross-pollination of science and art is evident in the pieces in the “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” During a docent tour previewing the exhibition, Troll was able to point out era-appropriate plants in his work and explain the anatomy of the long-dead creatures the pieces depict. Troll said the exhibition has been tailored for its Juneau audience and most of the pieces on display are related to animals that millions of years ago thrived in Alaska.
“This represents about 10 years worth of work, and there are about 60 pieces of art in the exhibit,” Troll said. ” Thirty of them being original framed pieces and the other 30 being digital outputs. “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” also features some works not made by Troll, including a pachyrhinosaurus statue made by Gary Staab that depicts the triceratops-like dinosaur bursting through the museum wall that seems destined to be a selfie backdrop.
The exhibition also included a handful of fossils, including bones from ichthyosaurs — an enormous marine reptile that swam the waters of Southeast Alaska. “They were the size of dinosaurs, but they were in the water,” Troll said. “We’ll show some massive ribs and some vertebrae from those. I think it will blow some minds that we had these right in Southeast Alaska.”
The collection also includes what Troll considers the pinnacle of his fossil-hunting exploits: the tooth of a Nanuqasaurus. Nanuqasauruses were a tyrannosaur that lived around the North Slope, and Troll found a tooth from one of the carnivores on the banks of the Colville River.
“It was a big moment for me,” Troll said. “When I found it, I cried.”
Know & Go
What: “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.”
Where: Alaska State Museum, 395 Whittier St.
When: The exhibition will be up through Oct. 19. Summer hours are 9-5 p.m. daily and begin May 6.
Admission: Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and free for those 18 and younger.
Prairie Ocean: Long Time No Sea – works by Ray Troll of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Chuck Bonner of Scott City, Kansas – through March 16, 2019.
At the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas.
PDF Flyer and Statement by Ray and Chuck for the show.
Based on the upcoming book with my pal Kirk Johnson (due out in the Fall of 2018 from Fulcrum Publishing) this show includes over 30 new framed original drawings & paintings, 30 large digital artworks, fab fossils on loan from the University of Alaska Museum of the Arts. The show is currently being exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California and is up from November 10, 1918 to March 17, 2019.
Now through the summer of 2019, the Buzzsaw Sharks of Idaho Show is at the Idaho Museum of Natural History at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.
Our Buzzsaw Shark exhibit has traveled the country, delighting audiences exceeding over 500,000 people. We’re excited to bring this one-of-a-kind attraction back to Pocatello, literally where it all began. The Buzzsaw shark–Idaho’s weirdest fossil–swam the ancient ocean that once covered our state eons ago.
This whorl-toothed shark occupied the seas 270 million years ago. Now, Idaho’s Buzzsaw Shark is coming home to Pocatello and will be the featured exhibit at the IMNH. The exhibit artfully puts the Helicoprion shark on display. Its fossils fascinate both paleontologists and exhibit visitors alike. This exhibit will run through the summer of 2019.
This exhibit is proudly sponsored by J.R. Simplot.
Shark week is every week in Idaho this year!
The Idaho Museum of Natural History on the ISU campus in Pocatello opened a major new exhibit based on a giant prehistoric shark found in the phosphate mines of Idaho. “The Whorl Tooth Sharks of Idaho” opened on June 22 2013, and runs through the end of the year.
The exhibit features a wide array of fossils of the 270-million-year-old shark called Helicoprion, along with original artworks by Alaskan artist Ray Troll, life-sized sculptures of the shark bursting through the museum walls by sculptor Gary Staab, original music, a short documentary and much more. There are children’s activities too, so it promises to be fun for the whole family.
The exhibit is a unique combination of science, art, music and humor. “The fossils are spiraling coils of razor-sharp shark teeth and are beautiful things just to look at,” said Leif Tapanila, ISU associate professor of geosciences and IMNH earth sciences curator. Opening day activities on June 22 include a slideshow by Troll and Tapanila at 2 p.m., guided tours of the exhibit from 3 to 4 p.m., and a book and T-shirt signing by Troll.
Tapanila was the lead scientist on recently published research on Helicoprion that unlocked many of the mysteries surrounding the shark. “For the last 100 years scientists really had no idea where the coil of teeth went on the shark’s body and it’s been open to some very wild speculation,” Tapanila said. “We CT scanned our best fossil of the shark and we now know exactly where the coil of teeth was positioned. We nailed it!”
The shark has intrigued many people over the last few decades and Ray Troll is probably the ancient shark’s biggest fan, according to Tapanila. “I started working with the ISU crew a few years ago when an undergraduate student named Jesse Pruitt contacted me wanting to know more about the shark,” said Troll.Pruitt’s query reignited Troll’s passion for the shark. As the new research progressed Troll was an active participant in the work revising versions of the shark’s appearance as the work progressed.
“Scientists need artists to bring fossils alive,” Tapanila said. “Working together we can dial-in the most realistic versions of the past.”
Illustrations featured in the new exhibit show the progression of art and science, and many of the fossils are being displayed for the first time.
This exhibit is made possible by the Anne Staton Voilleque Charitable Foundation, The William J & Shirley A Maeck Family Foundation, the Hitz Foundation, and The Monsanto Fund.
The Idaho Museum of Natural History is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Entry is $5 adults and $1 children pre-K to grade 12.
For more information visit the IMNH website http://imnh.isu.edu/home
My latest exhibit is down in beautiful Northern California at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, right next to Monterey. They have 40 + original drawings, large print-outs, wacky limericks, an original soundtrack by my pal Don Kenoyer, plus cool specimens, models, tables, etc. The heart of the show is a slew of colored pencil drawings I did for a mural project in Pacific Grove with Roberto Salas and Memo Jauregui. The show opened on October 1 and ran until February 1, 2012. You can check out a slideshow gallery of the exhibit by clicking right here.
You can hear samples from Don Kenoyer’s ‘Green Seas/Blue Seas’ soundtrack online at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/donkenoyer2
|I worked as the art director for this major traveling museum exhibit organized and designed by the fine folks at the Miami Museum of Science and funded by the National Science Foundation. I’m responsible for most of the art throughout the show and many of the photographs. The Miami Museum of Science webpage for the exhibit is online at
The show schedule looks like this:
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh through January 7, 2007.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry ( OMSI). Feb. 3 through May 1, 2007.
Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia , June 1 until Sep. 9, 2007.
Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. June 2 through August 31, 2008.
The Miami Museum of Science is showing images from my Sharkabet Book.
View more images of the show here…
Purchase the book from our webstore here…
View more images of the show: