Fauna: an Anthropocene Penny Press

w/ Stuart O. Anderson + various illustrators
interactive custom-built penny-smashing machine


Debuting at Carnegie Natural History Museum in the Hall of North American Wildlife: December 2021


Fauna is an all-ages interactive mechanical sculpture that engages the public about extinction and wildlife adaptation in the Anthropocene through an elaborate, kinesthetic hand-operated “penny smasher.” Participants insert a US penny and turn a large wheel, easily pressing the penny with great force and, in the process, embossing unique illustrations on both sides. One side depicts animals that are critically endangered or even extinct, and on the other side are the tracks of animals currently adapting to urban environments. 


Influenced by roadside souvenir penny press machines, Fauna is the first such machine created by artists. I have been developing and fabricating this machine since 2014 in collaboration with robotics engineer Stuart O. Anderson (with additional mechanical assistance from Miriam Devlin). The design and mechanisms are entirely original, and the machinery is fully custom-built. 


Rather than exhibiting in art-focused venues, Fauna will tour natural history museums where visitors will interact with the project in installations created in collaboration with museum curatorial staff. These immersive exhibits will extrapolate on the themes and questions inherent in the pennies by showcasing the institution’s collection of artifacts – taxidermy, tools, etc – to create an experience unique to each city and bioregion. While penny press machines are culturally associated with souvenir shops and roadside attractions, often positioned in gift shops and near the exits, Fauna is integrated into the museum exhibition space as its natural “habitat.”


You can download a pdf of the current concept sketch, as well as an informational one-sheet.


The original, interpretive animal illustrations for the pennies were created by myself and eight other printmaker/activists.  Individual pennies from early, small editions can be purchased here.


Artists who have participated by providing illustrations: Josh MacPhee (Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle), Katie Kaplan (Caribbean Monk Seal), Bec Young (Red Wolf), Mazatl (Jaguar), Mary Tremonte (Eastern Cougar), Ally Reeves (Passenger Pigeon), Pete Railand (Eastern Elk), Roger Peet (Great Auk), and myself (Mexican Grizzly Bear).

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Sculpture & Installation