“There is a longing to know our selves through animals. Animals make us more human.” I love these lines from Kendra Bulgrin’s artist statement. Kendra, whose work, more broadly, “examines the longing for identity” and questions “how identity is constructed through images, place, memory, decoy, and the miniature,” approached me last summer about an exhibition she was curating. I didn’t know then that she is a wonderful artist herself. I loved getting to learn about Kendra’s paintings when she emailed me a few months ago to submit her work to Muybridge’s Horse.

Kendra very frequently depicts animals in her paintings, and in her new work featured here, hunting decoys. The decoys and their counterparts make me think of scenes from a dollhouse, dolls and and other miniatures. Looking through her work, particularly Wisconsin Home followed by Longing & Belonging, I found myself remembering a favorite book from my childhood for the first time in many years – Pam Conrad’s The Tub People, illustrated by Richard Egielski. I see the whimsy and playfulness, as well as the slightly macabre quality, of the story so clearly in the paintings. Both are haunting and sad, telling about wonder and curiosity paired with aloneness and loss.

From the artist’s statement: I have always been interested in the metaphorical implications of simulation and mimesis. The decoys are life-sized, meant to mimic nature and often used in hunting to lure in or get closer to wild animals. I have been thinking a lot about how humans long to be closer to nature and continually return to it as a place of rejuvenation as we become increasingly detached from the natural world. Yet actual closeness with wild animals is difficult or nearly impossible to achieve except in captivity. I use the decoys as metaphors for my own feelings of detachment from family, nature, memory and my own natural roots and my desire to feel connected. These methods of working with the miniature, decoy, place, and photography allowed me to distance myself, yet at the same time create an idealized nearby place for my longing.

Visit artist's site: kendrabulgrin.com