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

Ruben Brulat, "Au Temps Disparu, Bromo, Indonesia"

Ruben Brulat

Ruben Brulat’s intensely beautiful photographs are more than gorgeous landscapes–there are tiny humans within them, sprawled out on the side of a mountain or curled up in a dusty crevasse. In his earlier project, Primates, the figure depicted is his own, while in Paths, the artist stopped passersby while he was traveling internationally and asked them to participate in photographs about embracing the landscape, so to speak. The images dramatically portray our relationship to the massive, incredible natural world, and how vulnerable we are to the elements and in earth’s vastness.

Visit artist's site: rubenbrulat.com

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Crystal Morey, "Hare Totem"

Crystal Morey

Crystal Morey uses clay to build figurative sculptures of humans encased in animals. She uses gesture, texture, and subdued colors to create intimate objects that capture the mood of psychological, environmental, and cultural states. The animals Morey uses are either extinct or endangered due to human impact. Conceptually, the work focuses on environmental issues, and visually, the pieces reference totems. I enjoy the mysterious, emotive, and unique qualities of the strikingly beautiful sculptures.

From the artist’s statement: I am interested in the intellectual, emotional and primal relationship between humans and their environment. My understanding of [man's] role in the environment has changed. I once saw humans as being under the umbrella of “nature,” subservient to natural happening. I now realize humans are the largest variable in the changing of our planet’s ecological and environmental outcome. We are living in an era of what has been called a “great acceleration,” and in the past one hundred years, humans have developed and changed the planet in a very drastic way. Through hunting, deforestation, ocean acidification, gene manipulation, industrial agriculture, and mountaintop removal, we are now the driving force behind environmental change. Today every human development has a reaction we can see and these actions are causing havoc, leading us to an unsustainable environment.

These are the ideas I keep in my mind when I am making sculpture. I am interested in the effects these difficult situations have on the human psyche and how we respond to them. I try to show the stresses in our cohabitation through making sculptures of humans, animals, the environment and the delicate dependencies we share. My creative research plays a distinct role in the concepts behind my work. I am interested in learning about animals with stressed habitats due to human interaction. I am sensitive to looking for creatures that we as humans can relate to, giving us a stronger sense of our relationship to the earth. I am also intrigued in the way other cultures, past and present, relate in their ecosystems and how I can incorporate these ideas of their nature and culture into my work. In addition to my cultural and ecological artistic research I am interested in looking at creation, ancestral, and destruction stories from other places and cultures. I strive to create reinterpretations of these stories that are more relevant to the contemporary narrative I am trying to convey while also looking to relate an idea with empathy, beauty and emotion.

Visit artist's site: crystalmorey.com

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Nathalia Edenmont, "Happiness"

Nathalia Edenmont

I’ve seen Nathalia Edenmont’s work here and there on the internet over the years, but recently I’ve been spending some time reading about her and her process and want to represent her unique artist philosophy here. As opposed to many artists who claim that they do not have a direct role in the death of the animals depicted in their artworks, Edenmont has a reputation for killing and preserving animals for the exact purpose of creating photographs. In a 2006 interview with Vice, she states, “I used to cut up animals all the time when I was a housewife, so why not do it for my art? And I always use perishables—it’s not just fresh, but alive. And I’ll only use the heads and the eyes. That’s actually the only part I’ll do all on my own, I’ll have assistants helping me with everything else... I buy rabbits from a farm. The animals there are a bit deformed since they’re all just going to be transported to a factory where they will be made into restaurant food. If you look at the eyes that I’m using you can see that they’re misshapen.”

Edenmont’s still lifes and portraits have probably received the most attention, but I think her butterfly photographs are terribly beautiful.

From the artist’s statement: Photography is able to contain and mimic the same hypocrisy that colored my upbringing. In photographs, wilting flowers bloom long after they have withered. When the blood in my images still looks vivid and alive, the blood in reality has long since congealed and clotted, much like the ideals that once were so vivid in my youth.

Visit artist's site: nathaliaedenmont.com

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Jaejin Hwang, "Asleep"

Jaejin Hwang

The photographs in Jaejin Hwang’s recent projects are quiet and calm and depict natural moments. His pictures reflect a sense of everyday surroundings and an authentic representation of our simple interactions with the world around us. When I read in an interview that the concept of his series, Asleep, is inspired by The Smiths’ song of the same name, I was intrigued. The artist says he wanted to express the “ambiguous distinction between the death and falling asleep” and “an invisible power behind natural moments.” He also states, “I believe that intangible things always surround us, and if we capture very natural moments, we can magnify this” (source). The resulting photographs make me think of summer daydreams.

Visit artist's site: cargocollective.com/jaejinhwang

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Lee Deigaard, "Don't Point, Don't Shoot"

Lee Deigaard

Lee Deigaard’s infrared photography shows a side of animals rarely seen. The images portray the off-putting, intense moments when animals see and are seen by, or perhaps sense and are sensed by, the artist and her camera. The series feels like a glimpse into animals’ lives when no one is watching, like confrontations upon realizing you are not alone.

From the artist’s statement: I use the same infrared gadgetry used by hunters. When the animals know me, I wield the camera handheld and shoot blindly, without the aid of crosshairs, a proprioceptive choreography in the dark. With wild animals, I keep my distance. I learn only what they choose to announce. They’ve grown familiar with the camera. Privacy. Incursions. There is no informed consent. Woman with a camera. Hunter with a gun. Something is taken. I spend time among the trees for the peace and quiet. My blunter senses build me a bubble. The animals around me hold their breath. However benign, I impinge.

Visit artist's site: leedeigaard.com

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Shaun Kardinal, "Flying Formation"

Shaun Kardinal

I love these collages of found images by Shaun Kardinal. They remind me of the work of Ben Giles (and some of M.C. Escher); however, Kardinal’s pieces are made of images taken from Google searches and friends’ Facebook and Instagram feeds. Another aspect of the work that stands out is their mode of display. Kardinal feels strongly about making cheap art, free as often as possible, and avoiding making “another precious thing for sale.” The Flying Formation images were presented digitally, exhibited on the artist’s Instagram one evening last month.

From a statement on the artist’s website: I chose my Instagram feed as the right exhibition space, and would, as a sort of durational performance, post the images over the course of two hours during Seattle’s First Thursday Art Walk. Following contemporary standards, I encouraged people to check it out with a Facebook event, but excluded any telling information and images.

When the evening came, I got myself setup at a favorite bar where, lit blue by iPhone and Macbook, I posted an image. Every ten minutes, I composed another—using Instagram’s filters and editor to finish each piece. People engaged in the set actively as I posted. In my home feed, the images mixed with shots of other work, tangible work, lining the walls of proper art spaces. I drank two whiskey-gingers and ate a plate of fries with garlic aioli. When I wrapped things up with the final title image, I closed my computer and put away my phone. Still alone at the bar, I felt newly connected to my art and community, rejuvenated and altogether satisfied with a successful project.

Visit artist's site: shaunkardinal.com

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David Kasnic, "Sweetwater"

David Kasnic

Remember the Florida python round-up that got so much attention last year? This is like that, but a much older tradition. In the 50s in Sweetwater, TX, rattlesnakes were rounded up and killed as a form of population control. Since then, it’s become a tourist attraction. For one weekend a year, handlers in the small town in western Texas collect thousands of rattlesnakes and visitors engage in milking and skinning the snakes. Locals see the tradition as deep-seated in their culture, even the Miss Snake Charmer milking a snake each year (source). Quite an example of our complicated relationship with animal life. The photos are gorgeous. Those bloody hand-prints are haunting.

Visit artist's site: kasnic.com

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Henk Wildschut, "Verbeek Hatchery, Zeewolde"

Henk Wildschut

Of all the animal photography I see, there’s very little that focuses on food production. And if you introduced to me a photography series saying that it exposes how animals are raised and prepared for food, I would immediately brace myself for gruesome images of animals being mistreated or dying prolonged, painful deaths. However, Henk Wildschut’s series about the food industry in the Netherlands presents something surprisingly different. While working on this impressively well-researched and -executed project, Wildschut’s own preconceptions about food production were challenged as well. Many of the images in the series are accompanied by such interesting and informative text explaining what makes the treatment of animals for food in the Netherlands quite different from that in, say, the US.

From the artist’s statement: Few subjects generate as much discussion as the subject of food. Such discussion is increasingly marked by suspicion and pessimism about how our food is produced. Two years ago, when I was asked to make an in-depth study of the subject of Food for de RijksMuseum in Amsterdam, I was full of preconceptions about the food industry. I saw it as dishonest, unhealthy and unethical. More than that, it was contributing to the decline of our planet, unlike in the good old days, and I felt that the magic word ‘organic’ was going to solve everything. So when I embarked on this project, my first impulsive reaction was to bring to light all the misunderstandings about food once and for all.

After two years of research and photography I realized that the discourse on food production can be infinitely refined and that this often puts supposed advantages and disadvantages in a new light. Scaling-up can actually enhance animal welfare, for example, and organic production is not always better for the environment. Often, an excessively one-sided approach to the subject of food is a barrier to real solutions. Food is simply too wide-ranging and complex a subject for one-liners or to be describing in terms of black and white.

Visit artist's site: henkwildschut.com

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Gaston Lacombe, "Captive"

Gaston Lacombe

I’ve been coming across a lot of great, unique zoo photography lately (see Eric Pillot, Daniel Zakharov, and Lauren Grabelle) and Gaston Lacombe’s Captive  is no exception. With temperatures already in the 90s here in Middle America, it’s particularly difficult to imagine the lives of animals in zoos, and maybe that’s why I’m responding to the images of water in animals’ enclosures in this selection. However, it is not Lacombe’s aim to criticize zoos, necessarily, but the conditions of those he photographs.

From the PDN article, The Unnatural: [Lacombe] points out that zoos originated on the assumption that humans should have dominance over nature; only in recent history have zoos added conservation, preservation and education to their missions, which he applauds. But quality of life, he adds, is still a factor not fully considered by zoos most of the time. “Not all zoos are equal,” Lacombe explains. “Some make great efforts to provide their animals with adequate and comfortable habitats, and some others can only be described as animal torture chambers. However, in all zoos, there are always some animals wedged in habitats that are inappropriate, inadequate and uncomfortable. I still haven’t seen any exceptions to this.”

Visit artist's site: gastonlacombe.com

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Juliette Bates, "Histories Naturelles"

Juliette Bates

I’m a fan of mysterious photographs, packed with symbolism, whose exact meaning eludes me. This used to be my favorite way of working, and I can really appreciate it in this series by French artist Juliette Bates. I love the juicy, velvety blacks and creamy whites; the simple, exact compositions; and the consistency and repetition of colors and textures in these images, as well as the perfect clarity of the glass domes photographed. This series, which makes me think of newer ParkeHarrisons work, could have me looking for days.

Visit artist's site: juliettebates.com

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