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Defiance: Animals on the Brink and in Your Face
The series 'Animals on the Brink and In Your Face' focuses upon endangered species. While there’s an abundance of ‘critical lists’ out there, I’ve decided to limit my choices to creatures that have a suspected population of a thousand members or less. Images of endangered animals are usually selected to evoke feelings of guilt, pity and compassion, however I’d like to offer a different perspective. Here in ‘DEFIANCE’ the creatures exude a pride, audacity and all around, animal chutzpa that defy the usual weepy eyed, impotence. With a self-assured gaze they challenge the viewer declaring: “Ghee, humans thanks for all the attention now but where were you when my species was being hunted for sport, poached for parts, kicked out of its’ habitat and still had a fighting chance at survival?” Our lesson is clear, we need to act long before the barrel has gone over the proverbial falls.
Flesh and Spirit
This series explores the relationship between us and the food we eat and specifically between us and the animals we eat. It asks the question ‘Do we know, or do we even care how that chicken or bacon or steak ended up on our plate?’ We might ask: ‘Well here it is in front of me but where did this meat come from? How did this animal live and how did it die?” When buying a piece of meat, neatly wrapped in its’ cellophane casing do we even know what part of the body it came from? In our modern world of ultra-convenience we have become so disconnected and distanced from the origins of our food that we have all but lost the concept that when eating meat something has died in order that we might live.
I used to live by the credo: ‘I have no problem buying and eating meat because I’d have no problem killing an animal if I needed to.’ While this might have been the case, the fact was that the true story behind how my beef or poultry lived and died was in stark contrast to any romantic presuppositions I might have had. My childish notion of good ol’ Farmer Brown selecting his prize chicken after a long and happy life on the farm and swiftly chopping off it’s head was worlds away from the wretched lives and brutal deaths that most animals endure before their meat arrives in our supermarkets, at our restaurants and on our tables. Hunters, whether you condone their actions or not, are completely aware that they are taking a life in order to sustain their own lives. They kill an animal that has spent a normal life, free and in its’ natural habitat. It is killed with purpose and clarity, up close and personal, and with no ‘middle man’ or shrink-wrap to alleviate the nagging queasiness. The commercial meat industry, on the other hand, is a multi-billion dollar goliath that cares little about its’ product’s wellbeing and a great deal about its’ bottom line. It’s practices, although economical are often heartless and brutal, and at times to the extreme.
The more we understand about the life and death process involved in commercial, meat farming the less confidence we might have standing by our personal credos. Yes maybe we could take a life, but could we do it in the same manner that it is being done on a commercial level? Whether we like it or not by eating meat from ‘factory farms’ we are essentially paying someone else to do the dirty work for us. The sad truth is that for most us we are instinctually aware, on some level, that the animals we eat live terrible lives and suffer horrible deaths but we simply choose to ignore it.
By incorporating highly detailed and iconic imagery, I attempt to bring a little dignity back to the suffering and sacrifice of commercially bred animals. While seen as ‘commodity’ by their captors and ‘food’ by the consumer we must try to reconcile that they are also living beings, capable of emotion and feeling. Is it so ridiculous to suppose that a ‘dumb’ animal might have some level of intimacy with its’ fellow creatures and maybe even with a god? Hopefully the power and sheer joy of the work will allow the viewer to reflect, if only for a few moments and maybe even re-connect and appreciate their food more.
Oddballs and Mischief Makers
I created this series for two reasons. To start with I wanted to paint animals that I've always loved and found especially interesting. Secondly, I wanted to shed a little limelight upon those unfortunate creatures who have been generally snubbed by the public eye due to their less than perfect appearances, unsavory temperaments and, dare I put it in human terms, bad behavior.
While not usually found on the A list of animal pinups, their lack of cuteness, disturbing habits and sheer strangeness is more than atoned for by their noble hauteur and joie de vivre. An irritable, 3000 pound, wall of lumbering blubber might not bring in the same approval ratings as the majestic grace of a bengal tiger, but a walrus is a glorious thing none the less, possessing a tremendous amount of walrus charm and thunderous grace all its' very own. After all, we must never forget these are animals that rank among nature's winners, the survivors and victors of that long and treacherous evolutionary trail of tears.