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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.

Susan Badcock

Susan Badcock

Susan Badcock was led to her body of work Road Kill by a long-standing captivation with collections. Badcock photographs birds struck by cars on New Zealand roads, aiming to showcase the beauty and restore the personality of each creature. She then hand-colors the print, enhancing the piece with intentional detail and a subtle sense of movement. The impression of blurred motion, the light background (not black, as other artists have used when working with similar subject matter), and the position of the birds–compact like preserved specimens but also floating vertically in the frame–make the series feel to me graceful and ethereal, in a way more animated than the typical (dead animal) still life. The animals seem to have come alive once again in the creation of the pictures.

From the artist’s statement: Inspired by museum collections and the painterly art of the eighteenth century, I strive to rescue the grotesque mutilations of wildlife that have died pointlessly and unwittingly on New Zealand roads. My aim is to restore beauty and dignity to these plentiful animals that would otherwise receive little or no consideration.

The physicality of my photoshoots are always linked with the intricacies of hand colouring and I have an acute awareness of how colour will enhance and add additional elements to the finished work as I am shooting. The union of contemporary subject matter and the traditional photographers’ method of adding colour by hand sees attenuated water colours or thick heavy oils intensifying and diluting movement, creating emphasis and exploring detail. I am the hunter gatherer and my art builds textural and compositional elements as the birds hold their space without distraction. While I preserve the honour of the bird and its pigmentation, I am not restricted by its natural state. Instead, I am guided by my personal sensitivity and perception towards colour. Mine is a marriage of contemporary and traditional that draws the viewer in and redefines preconceived hypotheses of normal.

Visit artist's site: facebook.com/susanbadcockstudio

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Fleur Alston, "Kit and Caboodle"

Fleur Alston

In her series Kit and Caboodle, Fleur Alston creates incredibly intricate collage mandalas, a dead animal at the center of each. The mandala, “a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism that represent[s] the Universe,” seems to me to serve as a memorial to the animal that the artist has happened upon, and symbolizes balance, a cycle, life, and death. To create the mandalas, Alston uses objects that surrounded the animals in their environment. Along with the subject matter, the prominent presence of black in the images reminds me of Portia Munson’s work, and the perfect circles call to mind a few of Tamany Baker’s photographs; I’ll never tire of seeing new ways in which artists explore animal deaths, and I think each one is doing a remarkable thing.

Visit artist's site: cargocollective.com/fleuralstonphotography

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Tamara Lischka

Tamara Lischka

When I first saw these photographs by Tamara Lischka, I wasn’t sure if what I was looking at was real. I wondered how these images were made, how the artist had access to the bodies of these creatures, which looked to me at times human, animal, alien, and even manmade or sculptural, perfectly formed and packed with detail. Although I can see why some may be disturbed by the subject matter, fetuses being handled by human hands, I feel the pictures were made with such reverence, tenderness, and a genuine curiosity in the bodies that house our spirits, a curiosity for which we are often shamed. I love Lischka’s statement about the work, to which I can absolutely relate.

From the artist’s statement: When I was a child I occasionally found mermaid’s purses – egg cases for sharks and skates which had washed up on the beach. I wanted to open the purses, to find out if the leathery sacks actually contained a baby shark or not, but spent long minutes filled with anxiety about what I would see if I did. Would the fish still be alive? Would it squirm or move? Having destroyed its haven, could I really just stand there and watch the fetus die? Eventually such thoughts eclipsed all curiosity, and so I always put the purse back down on the sand and left it undisturbed.

In the past my work has held its secrets close, literally enclosed in the sculptural spaces created by curled fingers and closing hands… But now the hands are beginning to open, long sequestered thoughts and feelings finally examined and revealed. Fetus, fish, squid – the lifeless bodies of these creatures appear eerily animate, even grotesque out of context. Yet the hands that hold them nurture as much as they expose, fingers curving around the tiny forms, even as they lift them gently up into the light.

Found via: LensCulture

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Mariana Lopes

Mariana Lopes

While a student at the Portuguese Institute of Photography, Mariana Lopes began the multidimensional project Limbo. The photography portion of this venture, featured here, explores the engrossing process of taxidermy. Lopes’ photographs chronicle the transition from animal to thing, from an organic being to a manmade creation comprised of plaster and metal, the animal’s skin acting as the finishing touch. A similar narrative can be seen in the work of Andrew Tunnard and Rafal Milach, but what I appreciate about Lopes’ photos is the combination of the stark with the human, of the white background and the bright lighting with the human hand, when it appears. It reminds me of the care and craft that goes into the alien-, frankenstein-like product that is taxidermy.

From the artist’s statement: All organic matter follows a trajectory: life, death, decomposition and finally total material fading. Taxidermy exists because of the inevitability of life to fade, assuming an attempt to stop time. The reasons are several: personal validation of a hunter, the prize; immortalie a pet, document a species for scientific reasons, decorate a wall, causing horror… [it] is not possible, however, to dissociate it from nostalgia. In addition to death and destruction, taxidermy exposes the concerns surrounding human relations with and within the natural world; the strangeness that is to be part and to be apart of nature. Taxidermy does not deal with the idea of ​​resurrection, but with the idea of eternity. And for that the animal must be killed. Dead but not gone, a tribute or violation of nature, an attempt to escape the question of life and death.

Visit artist's site: mariana-lopes.com

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George Shiras

George Shiras

George Shiras, sometimes regarded as the first wildlife photographer, was born in 1859 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and began photographing 30 years later. A lawyer and politician, it was his passion for hunting growing up that led him to photographing animals instead of killing them–“camera hunting.” Using flash photography and camera trap equipment, Shiras captured ghostly, eerie images of animals at night in Michigan and around Lake Superior. In 1906, 74 of Shiras’ photographs were published in National Geographic (source). In 1935, the National Geographic Society published a two-volume set of nearly 1,000 of his nocturnal wildlife photographs (source). Shiras died in 1942. Last year, a book of his work, In the Heart of the Dark Night, was published by Editions Xavier Barral and can be purchased here.

Source: National Geographic

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Amy Guidry

Amy Guidry

I was instantly drawn to Amy Guidry’s surreal, dreamlike paintings as soon as I saw them. I thought of Josh Keyes, a favorite painter of mine, and Salvador Dali, and I thought of the overwhelming theme the work communicates to me, which is disconnection. Each painting, with high definition and incredible attention to detail (particularly light), is a landscape of disparate elements; some even look like collage upon first glance. As a whole, Guidry’s series In Our Veins illustrates the connections, or lack thereof, amongst living things and the natural world.

From the artist’s statement: The premise of my series “In Our Veins” is to explore the connections between all life forms and the cycle of life. Through a psychological, and sometimes visceral, approach, this series investigates our relationships to each other and to the natural world, as well as our role in the life cycle. Concepts such as life and death, survival and exploitation, and the interdependence and destruction of living and nonliving organisms are illustrated throughout. Using imagery derived from dreams and free association, “In Our Veins” demonstrates these ideas in a surreal, psychologically-charged narrative.

Visit artist's site: amyguidry.com

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Einar Sira

Einar Sira

I find these pictures by Einar Sira so striking. I have spent long periods of time looking at them. They call to mind this Cig Harvey photograph, a favorite of mine. Sira’s series Post Vitam is divided into three parts, Animalibus (Animals), Ales (Birds), and Plantis (Plants); all of the images depict animals or plants, in part or in whole, on a mysterious plane that reads as wet glass or the surface of ice or water. This aspect, along with the subject matter, is disorienting and mystifying.

In the photographs, there are areas of deep black, surprising colors, and pleasant reflections or fragments of plants and the surrounding natural life. Although the pictures are of dead animals, there is a quality of movement, or reference to a cycle. Sira aims “to explore decay and the brutal beauty of life and death as represented through dead birds, animals and plants,” hoping “to be able to convey the inevitability that they, like everything, eventually fade away.”

More from the artist’s statement: “I already knew he was dead because there was a bird on the front porch this morning.” These were the words of my mother after being informed that her brother had passed away.

I was able to document the first dead bird I discovered for over 18 months. I photographed the same bird over and over again, at different times of day, in different light conditions and during different seasons of the year. Since the project was highly personal, I did not show the pictures publicly. To me, it was important to revisit a bird or animal repeatedly as time decayed its small body.

One day I found a dead bird in my garden. When I touched it, it still felt warm in my hands. At the time I was battling depression so subconsciously that I was drawn to images of death. I placed the bird in my small garden pond and began to photograph it. The resulting images affected me profoundly; speaking to me of mythology, of death and serving as a reminder that many birds were important storytellers in Norwegian mythology.

Through photography, I find a connection between the passing of time and my own humanity and vulnerability that resonates within me. Water, which many of my photographs involve, can be viewed as a metaphor for the river of time that runs over the underworld, but also for the beauty, truth and finality of life.

As part of FIX Photo by L A Noble Gallery (LANG), Sira’s work will be on view at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf in London May 13-22, 2016.

Visit artist's site: sira.no

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Jayanti Seiler

Jayanti Seiler

I distinctly remember seeing Jayanti Seiler’s series, Of One and the Other, featured on Lenscratch earlier this year and thinking it was one of the most striking, poignant, beautiful photographic projects I’d seen in a long time. The images of people in a variety of settings interacting with and often embracing animals, living and dead, nearly brought me to tears; they are such moving photos of moments that feel authentic and heartfelt, fraught with the complex emotions of the relationships humans share with animals today. In making these pictures, the artist “spent time among people from a very broad scope of human-animal engagements ranging from falconers that capture and release birds of prey, 4-H youth that auction their livestock for profit and slaughter, owners of exotic big cats, animal sanctuaries that care for abused domestic animals, traveling safaris, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers, taxidermists, and encounters for profit.” In her statement for the body of work, Seiler writes that the series “seeks to inspire consideration of the complexity and depth found in the relationships between animals and humans from all points along a spectrum that spans the chasm from lifesaving to exploitation.”

More from the artist’s statement: [These] images are a critique of the paradoxical framework and disparate representations of our relationships with non-humans; wherein there is the desire to coexist harmoniously, yet control, consume and rule. These have yet to be reconciled, although in the last decade or more there is a growing sensibility and consciousness in Western culture towards animals as equal sentient beings. This work situates within this larger context and I seek to advocate for this essential regard for animals. The photographs as seen together, are a call to revere the natural world while living in a modern one in which the two realms often conflict.

The relationships I depict are meant to be complex and not clearly definable to call upon a greater concern. “Of One and The Other” is an acknowledgment of the myriad contradictions, and the unresolved and intricate borderlands shared by contemporary life and the undomesticated world of nature. I portray, that irrespective of our own biases, within every interaction and encounter, there deserves to be further understanding of our obligations and impact.

Visit artist's site: jayantiseilerphotography.com

Found via: Lenscratch

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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

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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

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