When I first saw the title of this article in the ARTnews magazine online, I thought it was going to be featuring some beautiful works depicting members of the animal kingdom. I was wrong!… Here is just part of it…
Last year London’s Grant Museum of Zoology staged what organizers thought was the first inter-species show of paintings by animals.
Baka, a Sumatran Orangutan who resides at Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, showed impastoed, calligraphic slashes in the manner of Kline. Samantha, a Western lowland Gorilla who lived at the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania, had an allover composition of candy-colored strokes evoking late de Kooning. Boon Mee, an elephant in Thailand’s Samutprakarn Zoo, took a more figurative path, with an astounding rendering of a flower pot.
That such primate and elephant art hews so closely to Western art conventions reveals more about our expectations than their talents. Boon Mee, for example, was guided by a keeper who manipulated her ear like a joystick in order to steer her trunk. The result may still be impressive, but it hardly reflects the creature’s natural tendencies—or the latest science.
The perception of animals as art-makers has come a long way since the late ’50s, when Desmond Morris put Congo the painting chimp on British TV, and in a famous show at London’s ICA.
Today animal artists are not viewed so much as novelties but as sophisticated creators with skills and senses that can enhance projects in ways humans never can. Anthropomorphism is out, and biological determinism is in.
It has become common for zoos and even aquariums to offer art supplies to a wide variety of species, part of efforts–known as Enrichment–to keep animals physically and mentally stimulated.
It certainly did give us a laugh, but I have to say, we much prefer Serena’s Pet Portraits. People painting animals is more our bag than the other way round!…
(Thank you to the ARTnews for the excerpt from their online magazine)