Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale is a book on cryptozoology written by Mark Bessire, the current director of the Portland Museum of Art (Maine); who has over a dozen books published.
Some, like the Tasmanian tiger, are considered extinct--yet sightings are still reported. Some, like the giant squid, existed only as rumors until hard evidence finally appeared. And then there are the others, who roam a shadowy realm between myth, hucksterism and science--for example, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Cryptozoology is the quest for unidentified and elusive species, and as such is often treated as a marginalized science more akin to farcical adventure. However, the subject makes for a perfectly fascinating zone of inquiry for contemporary artists interested in the fertile edges of the history of science and museums, taxonomy, myth, spectacle and fraud.
"Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale" mines the theoretical and design terrains of the twenty-first-century graphic novel and the medieval curio cabinet or "Wunderkammer," exploring cryptozoology in art and popular culture. Originally exhibited at Maine's Bates College Museum of Art, it begins with Mark Dion's installation of a bureaucratic government agency, the Federal Wildlife Commission's Department of Cryptozoology, Bureau for the Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena and National Institute of Comparative Astrobiology, and features drawings, paintings, dioramas, taxidermy and performative photos by artists Rachel Berwick, Sarina Brewer, Walmor Correa, Ellen Lesperance, Robert Marbury, Jill Miller, Vic Muniz, Jeanine Oleson, Rosamond Purcell, Alexis Rockman, Marc Swanson, Jeffrey Vallance and Jamie Wyeth.
One can not explain the layout and the books unique structure sufficiently, but suffice it to say it does not follow any standard practice for a softcover or hardcover, its design, structure, imprint, layout and texture are as specialized as the content and basis for its creation. One must see, hold and look at it to obtain a true sense.
If you were to pick this book strictly as a text on “mystery animals”, you would be mistaken. Its intent is not that, nor is its content. But, if you were to pick this book as a historical representation of art, you would be correct. That is the core of the book, extracting the artistic talents and viewpoints of contributors to the subject matter and content of cryptozoology.
Not to be outdone though there are essays throughout the book. While the historical entry by Loren Coleman is well written, it is overshadowed, rightfully so, by other entries. Primary to the overshadowing though is Sean Foley’s Cryptozoology as Art, which is presented in an artistic manner itself consisting of 52 verses. Not only is its style intriguing, but the content is well done.
The book is not for everyone, as it does require an interest in art and its various interpretations. One may find some entries odd, and out of place, but this in reality is a true testament to what art is as Sean Foley elegantly outlined above. One will not walk away with a new theory or idea in cryptozoology, but you do walk away with a different viewpoint on how art can be presented both in concept, implementation and presentation.