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Extinct Dolphin Bones in Flight Look Like Fossils in Zero Gravity

A dolphin diorama hovers in an open gallery space to bring attention to endangered species.
All images courtesy the artist

A museum exhibit blends the line between natural history and art by levitating an extinct dolphin skeleton whose ghostly bones soar through a stripped-down gallery space. Artist Jonathan Latiano conceived the gravity-defying installation, Flight of the Baiji, as a reminder of the strength and biological intricacies of formerly living mammals who inhabited Earth. Less Jurassic Park and more Earth, the flying skeleton of the Baiji dolphin evokes fantasy, but also a dire warning to take species preservation seriously.  Each structure is realized by bleaching driftwood to achieve the raw, textured tones of animal bone.


Latiano is also a fan of the suspended diorama. He writes, “I am obsessed with the traditional notion that sculptures ends at the floor and constantly strive to challenge this idea within the installations I create. I am drawn to areas that exist in‐between the boundaries of defined regions and strategically focus on the moments where my work is physically beginning and ending.”

The exhibit was completed in 2014, a stunning memoriam to an animal species pushed out by ecological struggle. Though they may look like the fragments of a dinosaur, the bones come from an extinct mammal called a Baiji dolphin. The species was forced into obsolescence by over-fishing, environmental deterioration, and increased  waterway construction. The Baiji was an inhabitant of the Yangtze River in Beijing, but faced increasingly worsening conditions as the river developed into a major traffic hub.

Flight of Baiji previously showed at Baltimore Museum of Art. To find more about the installation visit the artist’s website, click here.


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