Collection Spotlight

Robert A. Nelson. Killer Kane and the Dinosaurs, 1977. Lithograph. NIU Art Museum Collection.Killer Kane and the Dinosaurs by Robert A. Nelson

Robert A. Nelson, American painter, sculptor and printmaker, created Killer Kane and the Dinosaurs while holding a visiting artist workshop at NIU’s print shop. In 1977 he worked with professor David Driesbach and students and created intaglio prints that merge exceptional drawing draughtsmanship with the surprising inclusion of vernacular objects, including a movable whale tail attached to the print by a rivet and a safety pin. This combination of printmaking, drawing and collage mirrors Nelson’s combinations of science fiction, illustrative detail and nostalgia of the old American west; aesthetics that are hard to imagine together until they are forced to cohabitate.

Looking at us over his amputated right arm with the sleeve pinned up by an oversized safety pin, the amphibian-like soldier’s body faces away from the viewer. Curious text peppers the objects and subjects: “tea” on the bird with a whale’s tail, “pin” on the safety pin of the sleeve as well as isolated letters and numbers found on the figure himself. The collection also holds a preliminary black and white proof, making evident the difference made by the introduction of the collage materials in the final editioned print.

Millicent Kennedy, museum graduate assistant (2015-2018)
M.F.A. printmaking, 2018

Image: Robert A. Nelson. Killer Kane and the Dinosaurs, 1977. Lithograph. NIU Art Museum Collection. 1987.1. Gift of the artist.

Gallery Hours

Free and open to the public
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday: Noon-7 p.m.
Sunday Noon-4 p.m.
By appointment for group tours.

Closed during the summer, between exhibitions and during university holidays.


The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end of Altgeld Hall, on the corner of College Avenue and Castle Drive on the main campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.

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