With her recent series Displaced, the photographer Linda Kuo examines the illegal importation of exotic animals into the United States; her subjects, some torn from their habitats and others unable to adapt to their environments in captivity, give voice to the 300 million animals similarly brought to the states as pets.
Each photograph captures the life of a creature being treated for illnesses or wounds at New York City Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine; placed within the sterile context of the hospital, the displaced beasts oscillate between confusion, curiosity, and lonesomeness. The emotional core of the work is rooted in each creature’s supreme isolation; a bird sits alone on a scale, searching for some sort of recognition. Simultaneously, a guinea pig resigns himself to the clean, white basin, and a bird turns his puffy green back.
Amidst this sorrowful sense of displacement emerges an unexpected warmth, fueled by the desperate yearning of both animal and man to feel safe. After a failed resuscitation, a yellow bearded dragon falls into a gentle set of female hands that tenderly enfold his delicate flesh in a bright blue towel. Similarly, a turtle is offered carefully diced vegetables, which he cautiously accepts from giant human fingers; a bird’s heartbeat is measured anonymously but tenderly. Amidst a chaotic world, the hospital is shown to be a respite for the animals, fighting for their wellbeing against the odds.
For Kuo, the series is personal; bullied as a child, she empathizes with those oppressed, alone, and out of their proper place. The work’s resounding message is one of compassion—for ourselves, for the earth, and for those we share it with. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Slate)
For her poignant series Behind Glass, the photographer Ann Berry traveled to zoos across the world, traversing Belgium and South Africa, documenting the sufferings and yearnings of primates in captivity. She hopes that her images of the stunning creatures, who alternately raise a hand or cast down shadowy eyes, will benefit non-profits fighting for the rights of animals to humane and just treatment.
The beautiful series vehemently avoids the high resolution color aesthetic of zoological photography, opting instead for a gaze evocative of early pictorialists, who strived to render the photographic distinctly unscientific and launched the then novel medium of photography into the realm of fine art. Within Berry’s jarringly ghostly and ethereal tones, each subject reveals a soulfulness so often hidden in photographs of animals; their struggle is urgently expressionistic, spiritual, dignified, and human. As the artist puts it, she hopes to “hear [the animals’] inner sound.”
The artist’s choice of title refers both to the glass cages and her own glass camera lens, furthering the tragic distance imposed upon animal and human; once captured in space, each primate subject is again captured and fixed with the photographic frame. The sensuality of their glittery eyes, downy beards, and calloused fingertips seduce the viewer, only to remind us that we are tragically separated from the beautiful beasts; only through glass and careful photographic printing may we strive to come together, to touch. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Lens Culture)
If you have ever adopted an animal, then Jaime Toh’s SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) “Costume” campaign is sure to tug at your heart strings. Accompanied by the tagline, “Don’t put pedigree above personality,” the advertisements urge people to consider adopting animals in desperate need of a home rather being focused on finding a specific breed (that most likely comes from a breeder). In each image, we see a SPCA animal underneath the coat of a cat or dog with a higher pedigree. In a slightly morbid way, they wear their outsides as a suit, complete with zippers that behead their hosts.
Toh’s images feature smiling, happy dogs with cats do not look as entertained (I’m not surprised). Every animal looks more disheveled than its costume as he plays up the physical differences between shelter and a purebred/adopted pet. But, by visually shedding their outsides, it conveys the concept that when choosing a pet, personality outweighs looks. (Via InspireFirst)
Artist Max Gärtner‘s solo exhibit Animal Watching is a bit of a play on words. Much of the exhibits is filled with intricate animal portraits. The portraits of these animal gallery goers are created using carefully cut paper in impressive detail, that are then mounted and framed. It offers gallery visitors a different sort of Animal Watching. Accompanying the wall mounted artwork, are what appear to three figures, each with a different animal head, carefully inspecting pieces. The sculptures are each an animal watching the gallery events. Check out the video to see the way the piece interact within the gallery and some of the art work being created.
The human relationship with the natural world is a complex one that doesn’t seem to untangle anytime soon. With animal life increasingly being abused and habitats encroached upon anxiety is understandably mounting. Artist Chris Musina address these issues in painting and also sculpture. Musina depicts the uglier side of the human/animal relationship. Rather than highlight idyllic scenes of nature, he draws gruesome imagery of animal mistreatment to the forefront. Animal carcasses are often kept as trophies, dead souvenirs of a once living creature. Painting’s tradition of depicting killed animals is extensive – the fox hunt alone, for example, an entire genre. Appropriately, then, Musina’s animal carcasses are not there to be admired but act as animals condemning the viewer. They seem to be holding an accounting for their present condition in the painting as well as in a larger abstract sense. They act as a tool to deconstruct disassociation. Musina further explains his use of painting in addressing ecological and animal issues:
“Dealing directly with our increasingly volatile and uneasy relationship to the natural world, I draw from contemporary animal thought and a deep phylogeny of cultural cues. My work dismantles how we look at animals via “nature morte” painters, philosophy, hunting, museum dioramas, and the like. Manifested in life size compositions full of dark humor and bright color, I am addressing the animal as neither symbol nor object, but as subject, a subject aware of his or her own powerful symbolic nature. Painting represents the bulk of my practice precisely due to its place in the forefront of a history of representing animals. My paintings are populated with animal protagonists who stare back at the viewer in an uneasy gaze; aware of that place in our cultural history– asking for compassion, mercy, or simply to be put out of their misery.”
Designer Armin Blasbichler‘s work is often jarring. His series ORSON, I’m Home strikes a special chord, though. The series is composed of three “dining sculptures” created primarily from the bodies of various farm animals. While we may be more accustomed to farm animals adorning plates on the furniture, seeing them as taxidermy furniture makes for a surreal juxtaposition. The furniture confronts its users with the consumption it usually facilitates. Interestingly, for the series Blasbichler features a quote from professor and writer Don Slater: “In talking of modern society as a consumer culture, people are not referring simply to a particular pattern of needs and objects […] but to a culture of consumption.”
Emma Kisiel‘s series of photographs At Rest is as intriguing as it is simple. Kisiel happens upon animals that have died, typically roadkill, and sparsely decorates the site. Simply by placing stones and flowers around the carcass, Kisiel draws attention and returns a certain dignity to each animal. Typically these animals are only seen from inside a car as it momentarily passes. Kisiel says of her interaction with the animals in the series:
“They are happened upon, visited with, remembered, and left to return to nature.” [via]
In his latest series of drawings, Anthony Coicolea poetically engages with the term “pathetic fallacy” or our own egocentric inclination to prescribe human characteristics or qualities to all living things. His imagery, done beautifully with simple graphite on layered mylar, allows worlds to overflow with new pattens of transcendence despite an archaic old world order.
Of this series, the artist statement suggests, “In a new hybridized world of man and nature, nothing is permanent and nothing is safe. Humans, plants and animals have cross-pollinated; they have merged, evolved and adopted different features from each other. Objects acquire pathos and empathy while the decomposition of material things reflects the world in flux.