Encounters: Honoring the Animal in Ourselves
Exhibition Dates: September 14—December 29, 2019
Opening Celebration: Friday, September 20, 2019, 7-10 p.m.
Art, Ecology, and Animal Talks: Saturday, September 21, 2019, 2-4 p.m.
Craig Calderwood, Surrogate, 2014, pen, mulberry paper, beeswax, thread, 9x12 in., courtesy of the artist
|In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides
—James Dickey, “The Sheep Child”
|“Defining the animals as a way of defining the human is as old and common as beer.”
—Onno Oerlemans, “Poetry and Animals: Blurring the Boundary with the Human”
Humankind was born living alongside other animals, studying their behavior, sharing resources, fighting for land, sleeping under the same sky. As civilization progresses and cultural paradigms shift, it is inevitable that our relationship to our nonhuman brethren would also change. Today, other animals possess an endless number of positions in society. They are political pawns, commodities to be bought and sold, and pests to be eradicated. As often and as much they are beloved companions, symbols of beauty and innocence, and essential to environmental stability. They are worshipped and slaughtered in what is, unfortunately, unequal measure. If human activity continues at its current rate, we will lose half of all species by the end of this century.
Our artist ancestors, who painted in blood and carved into stone the likenesses of the animals with whom they shared space, had no choice but to locate themselves within the context of the greater ecosystem Today, encountering an undomesticated creature as we go about our daily lives is, at least in most urban areas, an event of note. Watching a coyote cross a busy street, glimpsing a bobcat on a hike, following a hawk as it circles above, or even finding a salamander in a backyard, can be a singular occurrence in the course of a human life.
All the artists in this exhibition have had, or imagine they have had, revelatory encounters with other animals. Even more, they find meaning for their own lives by interpreting these occurrences. Drawing freely from the characteristics, behaviors, and architypes of the nonhuman animal world they examine the events and emotional content of their lives, exploring themes of kinship, identity, hybridity, death, and love.
In her animated short Ascend, Shiva Ahmadi uses animal imagery to rage against and memorialize the real life death of a 3 year old Syrian refugee. Photographer and fisherman Corey Arnold documents the interactions between animals (human and nonhuman) he witnesses and experiences as a fisherman on the Bering Sea. Patricia Piccinini sculpts arresting, hyper-realistic creatures that are both human and other, speaking to the mutability of form. Printmaker Belkis Ayón Manso draws on the power of the animal architypes in African-Cuban myth to tell her own story.
As John Berger puts it, “animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises.” And if the artists in this exhibition are any indication, this they remain.
|Shiva Ahmadi||Corey Arnold|
|Roberto Benavidez||Craig Calderwood|
|Leonora Carrington||El Gato Chimney|
|Kate Clark||Anna Fidler|
|Belkis Ayón Manso||Kara Maria|
|Patricia Piccinini||Christopher Reiger|
|Fanny Retsek||Samuelle Richardson|
|Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor||Robb Putnam|
Patrick Dougherty: Whiplash
“My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest around Southern Pines, North Carolina. . .When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource.” —Patrick Dougherty
Whiplash, 2016, by North Carolina Artist Patrick Dougherty was created during a three-week artist residency. His sustainable willow material came from upstate New York, and was shaped in a process similar to basketry, but which the artist describes as akin to drawing. Patrick has created more than 275 monumental, site-specific sculptures on the grounds of museums, universities, botanical gardens, and private residences worldwide. His compelling sculptures evoke woodland architecture or gargantuan nests.
Whiplash was supported by the Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, with support from William Reller, Pat Bashaw and Eugene Segre, Catharine and Dan Garber, Barbara Jones, Nicki and Pete Moffat, Nancy Mueller, Anne and Craig Taylor, the Acton Family Fund, and more than 40 community donors to the Foundation’s first crowd funding initiative.