Life imitating art

Ray Troll and DMNS volunteers installing the Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibition

Detail of a Ray Troll ammonite
In 1999, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hosted Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway, a collection of fossils mixed with offbeat art and bad puns by Alaskan artist Ray Troll. For this exhibition, Ray created original drawings based on the ammonite excavation near Kremmling, Colorado.

Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes the reverse happens. One of Ray's drawings in Planet Ocean, the popular book he coauthored with Brad Matsen, shows fossil hunters returning with the booty from their safari: a giant trilobite. Substituting a giant ammonite for a trilobite, Dr. Kirk Johnson and fellow fossil hunter Mark Hillenbrand struck a similar pose in Kremmling, one that Ray put on paper for the exhibition at the DMNS.

An army of volunteers turned out in late 1998 and early 1999 to help Kirk and Ray install the Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibition. Ray used overhead projectors to shine his drawings on the walls, and volunteers (sometimes perched precariously on scaffolding or ladders, sometimes hunched near the floor) painted them on the wall. Ray and several other artists pooled their talents to make a "Dancing to the Fossil Record" dance floor.

A major attraction in the exhibition was Ray's original drawing depicting a scene of mass spawning soon to be mass death under the Kremmling moon approximately 73 million years ago. And below the picture rested a choice selection of the giant ammonites excavated the previous summer.

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