Animal have had a place in art for as long as there has been art. From the paleolithic artwork of the Caves of Lascaux to contemporary depictions, animals have long been part of human culture, myth, and symbol.
|Sojourn Pamela Murphy|
What do animals mean to our psyche? Many earth based cultures consider animals as spiritual counterparts, as messengers, and as partners in life on earth. Jung stated that animals were a relevant symbol of our psyche and often represented the self.
|Tiger Tiger Travis Louie|
Theriomorphism: the ascription of animal characteristics to humans.
|Stilts (Adaptation) Martin Wittfooth|
There seems to be a resurgence of animal imagery in contemporary art. One theory for this is that we are compensating through art for a loss. As humans grow more urban our involvement with non human animals becomes increasingly rare. With the exception of those animals doomed to be commodities; as food, as pets, and used for entertainment - which could include animal sanctuaries and parks, as well as zoos - natural encounters with animals, wild or tame, are few and far between. The occasional encounter with deer becomes an almost magical moment, and happening across a coyote, bobcat, or bear, or even a wild turkey or goose, often causes fear or confusion.
|Mixed Metaphor II Robert McCauley|
Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.
The questionable practice, in my opinion, of using live animals as art has unfortunately also surged. As I write this, an Ibizan Hound is part of an exhibition at LACMA. This practice to me is an extension of perceiving animals as commodities. None of those images appear here, or of taxidermy based art, as these are simply, to my mind, further forms of animal exploitation. The very same mind set that allows people to feel comfortable with exploiting animals, may also allow them to feel comfortable exploiting people.
|Enassamiian Tom Uttech|
"There are some who can live without wild things and there are some who cannot."
- Aldo Leopold "A Sand County Almanac"