A Taxonomy of Sorts - CODAworx

A Taxonomy of Sorts

Submitted by Judith Motzkin

Client: Pine Manor College, Truro Center for the Arts

Location: Newton, MA, United States

Completion date: 2017

Project Team


Judith Motzkin

Motzkin Studio


Cherie Mittenthal

Truro Center for the Arts @ Castle Hill


Taxonomy of Sorts is a self directed project. Each iteration has added to the work and varies in size and configuration. Vintage Fisher Scientific wood and paper medical slide boxes, clay stones and objects, translucent photos


Pot shards, an inevitable and often discarded product of making pots, are tumbled with sand and water into smooth round forms, imitating geologic processes of weathering and erosion. Assembled over years, they are presented here in various states of chaos and imposed order, making reference to the persistence of pottery in human and archeologic history and the scientific practices of taxonomic organization. The addition of translucent photos referencing the content of the boxes connects the digital imaging thread in my work.


The work speaks to the way we select, gather and make order and use of that which is collected. A stone is placed for the dead, a cairn to mark direction, a “sekimori-ishi” at the entrance to a meditation space of solitude. Just as we share the impulse to pick out stones on the beach, we are impelled to touch these curious objects. Please do.

“A Taxonomy of Sorts” comes from this natural impulse and the action of sorting these objects in the studio, giving them context. The work “...plays with the conventions of taxonomic cataloguing and storage in the natural sciences.” In the work they “look like they’ve been sorted according to some kind of taxonomic logic, but in fact, they have been sorted by a shifting, undependable logic that is neither chance – decisions are specific and particular – nor rigor.” commentary by Diana Lempel of Practice Space.

Additional Information

Not a commissioned work, this has evolved as part of my art practice and has been exhibited in various configurations at Pine Manor College Gallery, Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill Gallery, Tufts Street Studio Gallery, AMP Gallery Provincetown.