At the Living With Animals conference last month, I had the chance to briefly meet and look at the beautiful book Enchanting Cervidae by artist Gretchen Hill Woodman. Gretchen’s work stood out to me, particularly Overtaken, a mixed media piece depicting a brilliantly colored deer against a bright white background, and embellished with designs reminiscent of carousel animals (I’m thinking of work by Tim Racer). Gretchen’s charcoal drawings, sometimes including colored pencil, watercolor, pastel, and graphite, move beyond traditional animal portraits. My favorites are the pieces that show “the animal affected by human constructs,” literal representations of the ways our manmade tools and constructs affect animal life. Looking at this work, I find myself thinking of Michael Zavros’s falling horse drawings and Josh Keyes’s paintings, some favorites of mine.

From the artist’s statement: My drawings consider human perspectives toward animals, and the resulting interactions imposed upon animals by humans. My work currently explores imagery that falls within the following three categories:

1. The situation of the animal
The animal’s situation is precarious in this human-dominated world.

2. The animal affected by human constructs
These constructs can be tools such as plumb bobs, drills, houses, cities, cars, rules, laws, etc. Through our tools, we are adept at controlling all other life, and with them we have created an invented reality between ourselves and animals.

3. The animal as an individual
I draw the animal portrait similar in presentation to a human portrait to bring the viewer into an engagement with the animal as an important individual.

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