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Sophomore Award Winner

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Bella R. PettengillFollow

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This paper investigates artist Louis Choris and his book of scientific illustrations, Voyage Pittoresque autor de monde (1815), as a case study for the larger dilemma of visualizing factual modes of documentation. With a specific focus on Choris’s anthropological drawings of the indigenous people from the San Francisco Bay area and mission, it is argued how the decisions that must be made when representing something contain inherent biases. This contrasts with the functional usage of these drawings as documents meant to depict objective realities, especially in a time marked by heightened interest in taxonomy and the natural sciences. Above all, the existence of Choris’s illustrations do contain a surface positive when one acknowledges how they function within the larger colonial system, especially in the context of cultural preservation efforts by the modern Ohlone people.