Field Museum Artist-in-Residence Opens Miller Exhibition

Visitors can get a glimpse of an artistic impression of marine life at the Miller Art Museum this winter. The works of Peggy Macnamara, the longtime artist-in-residence of Chicago’s Field Museum, will be on display from Jan. 15 – April 11. 

The exhibition, Marine Life from Shore to Floor, will display 35 large-scale watercolors depicting ocean life and behind-the-scenes research activities at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

An internationally recognized painter, Macnamara has been the sole artist-in-residence at the Field Museum for the past 30 years. She has years of experience as both a naturalist artist and an author and is often paired with scientists and conservationists to illustrate their research subjects. 

Peggy Macnamara, “Aquarium at the Shedd,” watercolor, 2020.
Peggy Macnamara, “Angler Fish,” watercolor, 2020.

The soon-to-be-released book, Marine Life from Shore to Floor, features the artist’s series of large-scale watercolors depicting the research of the Field’s Ocean Conservator Janet Voight, whose work takes her from coastal tidepools to deep-sea ocean basins. The paintings featured in the exhibition burst with color and depict in great detail the intricacies of the inhabitants and environs of the marine world. 

As an artist who regularly visited the Field to paint the inspirational surroundings, Macnamara eventually  caught the eye of the Museum’s staff, who invited her to paint behind the scenes. So began a 30-year  relationship between the museum and the artist. 

“Peggy has an incredible story to tell, having self-created her career just by following her passions. She’s an  incredible example of how staying true to yourself and becoming a master of what you love to do will bring  you success,” says Miller Art Museum Curator Helen del Guidice. 

Wisconsin Artists Featured

The museum will also present New Acquisitions by Wisconsin Women: Sally Duback, Pamela Murphy and Sandra Shackelford, on its Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine. In 2021, the museum acquired work by the three artists for its permanent collection. 

Artist Sally Duback of Mequon is represented with acquisitions that include a collection of seven monoprints and two large oil paintings that were a gift of Sally Duback and Kohler Foundation, Inc. 

Duback creates dynamic, poignant images concerned with the extinction of earth’s animal species and the deterioration of the environment. 

One work by artist Pamela Murphy of Sister Bay was acquired, an oil painting titled Me Myself

Six other works are on exhibition courtesy of the artist. 

Sandra Shackelford, “The Last Farmer in America,” graphite, 2002.
Sally Duback, “Tweetstorm,” monoprint on handmade textile, 2017.

Finally, the museum acquired The Last Farmer in America from the Portraits of a Compassionate Humanity series by Sandra Shackelford of Green Bay. Shackelford is a nationally recognized artist whose finely drawn realist portraits of marginalized people are accompanied by oral histories of the subjects they depict.  

The work depicts the story of Dennis Miller, who talks of inheriting the family farm and his interpretation of the future of farming in the aftermath of shifting from a lifestyle to an industry.  

Shackelford’s humanitarian work began in 1957 as a member of the Pax Christi, a secular Catholic institute. The organization was dedicated to the improvement of the condition of disenfranchised African American residents of rural Mississippi, at the time of the Civil Rights Movement and in the oppression of the Jim Crow South. 


On Feb. 19, 1:30-2:30 pm, Helen del Guidice will talk to Peggy Macnamara in The Studio Door about her watercolor techniques, perspectives on wildlife painting, and longtime post at the Field Museum. A free artist reception will follow the program, 3-4:30 pm, when attendees can meet Macnamara and other exhibiting artists. Those interested in attending should check the museum’s social-media platforms or for changes in safety protocol before attending. 

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