web
analytics
home facebook tumblr twitter

MH is a blog and archive featuring artists who are interested in the ways in which humans interact with and experience animals and nature.

Maroesjka Lavigne

Maroesjka Lavigne

The first photos I saw by Maroesjka Lavigne were those in Animal Cabinet, a series about how only experiencing exotic animals in a zoo can lead us to feel disconnected, like they are only characters made to entertain us. The project depicts places or moments where the artist was reminded of this confusing scenario as an adult, and the images are visually stark and have a bizarre air to them. More recently, I discovered Lavigne’s series Land of Nothingness. These photographs are off-putting in another way. They show exotic animals in a vast landscape, alone and centered in the frame or lined up equidistant from each other, as if perfectly and meaningfully placed. The flat lighting creates an ominous feel. As in Simen Johan pictures, the scenes seem otherworldly.

From the artist’s statement for Land of Nothingness: A country named after a desert. One of the least densely populated places on earth. Defined by its rich variety of colors—yet in a forever changing, yet completely barren landscape. Namibia’s landscape draws you in, through a vast brown plain of scorched earth, and steers you over the white surface of a salt pan to finally arrive in the gold tones of the sand dunes. Patience is required to discover the wide range of Namibia’s subtle scenery.

It literally takes you hours, driving though nothing, to at long last arrive at… more of nothing. The sight of other people is rare and only the strategically located gas stations are a reminder of the world beyond. This country is in another time zone—time seems to move slower but it feels more logical, somehow. Captivated by these washed out yet delicately colored landscapes, you can drive for hours. Chaperoned by herds of giraffes or zebras, shadowed by flocks of flamingos, suddenly stumbling upon a family of elephants. The animals look up curiously, but soon forget about you and slowly continue their journey, unhurried by your presence, at their own pace.

Visit artist's site: maroesjkalavigne.be

SHARE

TWEET

Lucas DeShazer

Lucas DeShazer

When I saw one of Lucas DeShazer’s mural photographs (the last in this post) in the Newspace Members’ Exhibition last month, it made an impression on me, and I looked him up online shortly after in hopes of seeing more. I was happy to see that DeShazer’s made a whole series of photographs of murals, many of which I feel like I’ve seen since I moved to Oregon last summer (he also has several other fantastic projects on his site). The pictures reminded me of how drawn I felt to the animal mural I saw on the abandoned Linn Humane Society building a few months ago. I also thought of M. Alexis Pike’s great series Claimed: Landscape.

I really feel like I see these funny animal and nature murals everywhere–maybe it’s just since discovering DeShazer’s work. Now they’re some of my favorite things to spot as I drive around exploring the Portland area.

Visit artist's site: lucasdeshazer.com

SHARE

TWEET

Frances Alleblas

Frances Alleblas

Frances Alleblas’ charcoal and pencil drawings, prints, and watercolors depict characters of a disquieting, dreamlike world. In her work, the artist explores human existence and the relationship between the self and other. The protagonists in Alleblas’ narrative artworks, whether human or animal, are “enigmatic, elusive and seem absorbed in another world.” I find Alleblas’ drawings and paintings mysterious and affecting, and not unlike the two-dimensional work of the great Kiki Smith.

More from the artist’s statement: The drawings cannot be reduced to one literal meaning. No matter how well the different elements in each drawing can be described, the drawing as a whole cannot be captured in this way. Although the work has a definite clarity, the viewer remains uncertain and does not seem to get a clear answer. This is mainly because of the often-unexpected combinations of used images in one piece of work; fused elements that come from different origins. In a subtle way, the rational order of things is destabilized. The pleasure of surprise, that takes the work away from expectations.

Visit artist's site: francesalleblas.com

SHARE

TWEET

Luis Barbosa

Luis Barbosa

“We have become accustomed to thinking that man is at the peak of all possible evolution, that Nature is the scenario and we the leading actors,” writes Luis Barbosa in the statement for his work, Verticalmelancholia. In this and his other project, Return, the artist investigates the relationship between nature and man, particularly critical environmental issues. Barbosa’s photographs of the natural world through a ripped “suffocating membrane” symbolize our “cry of urgency for what is natural, an escape to Nature, reframing our own existence.” The images in Return remind me of Rebecca Reeve’s Marjory’s World; both series represent a portal from one realm into the wild and the natural.

More from the artist’s statement for ReturnThe need for an ecological reasoning becomes essential as the protection of Nature for the following generations turns into Man’s major concern. Human evolution’s unbalanced effects lead to internal revolutions within human condition and nature themselves. We breathe and we see. These processes, being mechanical, are minimized in their own vital importance. In a fast, packed and polluting society, the claustrophobic and blurring effects are amplified, also in attitudes and consciences.

Visit artist's site: luisbarbosaphotography.com

SHARE

TWEET

Angela Sairaf

Angela Sairaf

Of her work, artist Angela Sairaf writes, “Consciousness is the key to escape geographical confinement. When one has no place, but permeates the Universe, the concepts of near and far away disappear.” Sairaf’s pictures seem at the same time vastly open and unsettlingly confining. There’s an abstract quality to several of the pictures, and I can’t quite orient myself in them. The fog and snow depicted are quieting, like a boundary that’s penetrable but mysterious. The series, entitled now + here = nowhere, speaks of boundaries and boundlessness, using what I think of as one of the strangest of the ordinary weather conditions to describe nature’s ability to mystify.

Visit artist's site: angelasairaf.com

SHARE

TWEET

Margaret LeJeune

Margaret LeJeune

I am so excited to share the work of today’s post, Margaret LeJeune’s The Modern Day Diana. I met Margaret at an SPE conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, a couple of years ago and was immediately drawn to her pictures, which explore issues of constructed gender, sexism, power dynamics, and stereotypes. In The Modern Day Diana, the artist used a 4 x 5 camera to capture portraits of female hunters across the United States. The images instantly fascinate not only because they depict something we rarely see, but because they depict a twist on something we frequently see. I love this representation of women who defy multiple stereotypes. The subjects of Margaret’s photographs appear genuine, comfortable, and confident, women who are proud of their accomplishments and their home or their space, defying the norm while simply embracing the things they are passionate about. See Margaret’s new series, The Female Mariners Project, for more fantastic pictures in a similar vein.

From the artist’s statement: Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt. She was praised for her strength, athletic grace, beauty and hunting skills. Her vigor, health, and strength were admired and her protection was sought for young children and women in childbirth.

This series explores the modern notions of women hunters and the issues of gender, power and representation. By photographing in each woman’s home or hunting lodge I create a dynamic that questions the relationship between the domestic sphere, traditionally the women’s place, and the hunting world, typically a masculine realm. The attributes of Diana, that of the bow and arrow, hunting dog, stag and animal pelts, further express this dichotomy.

Visit artist's site: margaretlejeune.com

SHARE

TWEET

Ileana Doble Hernandez

Ileana Doble Hernandez

Ileana reached out to me about her work a couple of years ago and I have remembered it since. The bizarre setups, the blur of animals in motion or the funny positions in which they’re frozen, and the scenes that look like nothing more than simple snapshots until you realize there’s something so wacky and out of place all kept her series Animal Nature from slipping too far from my mind. I also enjoy Ileana’s statement about this body of images, which brings up something I don’t think I’ve read articulated very frequently in statements about animal-human art.

From the artist’s statement: I’m Mexican; I came to Massachusetts at the end of 2011, with my husband, our two dogs and our cat. In Mexico pets don’t live inside the house, and this new imposed way of living made me aware of the behavioral similarities between animals and humans. Soon enough I realized that besides adapting to a new environment I was also adapting to my peculiar gang. It is because of Rocco, Lola and Nina that I got interested in the relationship we have with animals. I’ve realized that we use them. We use them in very different aspects of our life, for companionship, for food, for entertainment, etc.

In this project, I stage images that talk about the animal-human interaction, mainly the one that I have with my pets and with the animals that are part of my everyday life. The use of humor is common in my language. I like to tell things as if they were jokes, but jokes that hide some truth. We think so high of ourselves as humans, but at the end, we are also animal kind.

Visit artist's site: ileanadobleh.com

SHARE

TWEET

"Seeing Animals" lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography

Lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography

Last month, I had the great opportunity to speak about my artwork and Muybridge’s Horse as part of the Iris Nights lecture series at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. My talk, Seeing Animals, was streamed live on February 18, and edited into a video that’s available to view on the Annenberg Space for Photography’s website. You can view it here.

Thank you so much to the Annenberg Space for Photography for having me, to the kind and curious audience and those who approached me afterward with thoughtful questions, and to my family, friends, and followers who support me in the pictures I make and in the work I do with this beloved website of mine. This experience was one for the books.

SHARE

TWEET

Ryan Thompson & Phil Orr

Ryan Thompson & Phil Orr

Bad Luck, Hot Rocks, a vast project by artists Ryan Thompson and Phil Orr, features photographs of specimens from the “conscience pile” at Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, and facsimiles of “conscience letters” from the Petrified Forest National Park archives. The specimens are petrified wood, fossils of trees that fell 200 million years ago. The letters are written by visitors to the park who took the rocks, then returned them by mail, incidents of bad luck leading them to believe the stolen rocks were responsible.

I find this project so visually appealing, entertaining (I could read the letters for hours), and utterly human. It’s clear there’s an element of the project that speaks to human beings wanting to connect to nature, to feel close to it, and to even own it in a way, but I love this other layer of something sort of supernatural. It’s beyond guilt; over the past 80 years, more than 1,200 people who have stolen rocks have returned them with letters not only admitting their crime, but expressing their superstition, and hoping to absolve themselves of the bad luck they are convinced is caused by their indiscretion.

From Thompson’s statement: Located in the Painted Desert of Northeast Arizona, the Petrified Forest was established, in part, to protect a vast deposit of petrified wood dating back to the Late Triassic period—roughly 200 million years ago. According to park administration, the preservation efforts have been an overwhelming success. In the more than one hundred years since its establishment in 1906, however, some visitors have still been unable to resist the urge to remove wood from the park. Some of these same visitors eventually return their ill gotten souvenirs by mail, accompanied by ‘conscience letters.’ The content of each letter varies, but writers often include stories of misfortune, attributed directly to their stolen petrified wood. Car troubles. Cats with cancer. Deaths of family members. For many, their hope is that by returning these rocks, good fortune will return to their lives. Other common themes include expressions of remorse, requests for forgiveness, and warnings to future visitors.

The publication of [the book] “Bad Luck, Hot Rocks” coincides with an increasing attentiveness to larger geologic forces in our everyday lives. With many scientists suggesting the formal adaptation of an ‘Anthropocene’ epoch, we seem more aware than ever of the effects [of] our personal and collective actions on the natural world.

Visit artist's site: badluckhotrocks.com

SHARE

TWEET

Lynn Savarese

Lynn Savarese

The first body of work by Lynn Savarese that I saw was My Still Life Aviary, a collection of taxidermy birds photographed in a traditional still life manner. But it was Savarese’s unique, imaginative series The Death and Life Adventures of Rat and Indigo Bunting that kept me on her portfolio website, trying to make sense of the scenes in which the mounts of a rat, birds, dogs, squirrels, and other animals found themselves. The images seem straightforward and simple; you can pretty well imagine the artist placing the taxidermy animals in different arrangements, snapping a photo, and moving on to the next setup. But there’s a definite story to the series, relationships between the characters, dialogue, tension. The project seems like a story of what goes on between taxidermy specimens when there’s no one watching.

From the artist’s statement: Inspired by E.B. White and his masterful portrayal of anthropomorphized animals, this collection of images is meant to relate the death and live adventures of a mounted rat and a mounted indigo bunting to whom Savarese grew very attached while shooting a taxidermist’s archives. While photographing taxidermy specimens, Savarese never lost sight of man’s hubris in turning animals into replicas of themselves and the inherent irony in striving to achieve a kind of immortality for them by killing them. Doubly ironic was the extent to which the specimens—often neglected, abandoned, and bug-infested—experienced a cruel second death in lieu of immortality. Even so, Savarese never felt more deeply the wonder and beauty of our animal kin than in her close-up encounters with Rat and Indigo Bunting and their cohorts. Savarese adopted the pen name of I.B. Black for the book she self-published of this series.

Visit artist's site: lynnsavarese.com

SHARE

TWEET