655 Pennsylvania Avenue SE

Et in Arcadia Ego
July 15 – present

Two cows stand on a hill of beef in a mountainous landscape. Amongst them are a wealthy landowner and his wife.

The subject of this theatrical diorama is mortality, as is made esoterically clear by the words "Et in Arcadia Ego" emblazoned across the top of the window, above the diorama. The phrase stems from Virgil's Eclogues and is widely considered, though not without debate, to translate as "Even [or even] in paradise/utopia, I am." It is presumed to have been spoken by a figure of death.

The subject was popular during the Baroque period. Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino)'s "Et in Arcadia Ego," from 1618-22, depicts two shepherds contemplating a human skull that they have stumbled across on trail in an otherwise untrammeled landscape. Nicholas Poussin's version, from two decades later, depicts four figures, all likely shepherds, examining the words "Et in Arcadia Ego" on an ancient stone tomb, also in the wilderness.

This dioramic scene treats the subject through two related storylines. The first involves the cows grazing on a hill that is, in effect, a symbol of their denoument. The protagonists in the other storyline are the two aristocrats, who, like the cows but unlike the shephards in paintings, appear oblivious to or wholly unconcerned with their fates. (The cut-outs are from Thomas Gainsborough's "Mr. and Mrs. Andrews," painted circa 1750.) The inclusion of these figures shifts the narrative from a musing on the human condition (i.e., death lurks everywhere), to a social commentary with class connotations, particularly around issues of exploitation, materialism, and individual ownership. The aristocrats, who Gainsborough's portrait and in this diorama, are seen amongst their possessions. They are exhibiting their control over the natural order. Needless, the one aspect of nature they can't control is their own mortality.

A scribe, aka artist, documents the scene at the foot of the hill of beef.

The storefront window design is meant to appear from a distance like that of an old jewelry store.


  1. Shows: 2021+
  2. Shows: 2011–20
  3. Shows: 2009–10


Photo-documentation >