Sunday, February 14, 2010

Artist's Statement

The following will be handed in tomorrow as a first draft. I'm not entirely sold on it, primarily because of its length (a much shorter version will accompany my work for senior show). It also doesn't really deal with the visual structures of my work -- more the social thoughts behind it. Take a read, tell me what you think. Most of the second paragraph is probably unnecessary (as well as opinionated). Anyway, a good start? Garbage? There's only so much I can cram into a brief artist's statement:

It is a standard in our society today to shun the dead bodies of non-human, non-domesticated animals. These corpses are viewed as disgusting, offensive, repulsive, and useless things. Children are told to avert their eyes from the deceased creatures they might happen across; the many species of animals hit by cars on the highway are desensitized into the catch-all term of road kill; even the bodies of animals found in nature are sometimes doomed to be thrown away by misguided citizens who believe they are cleaning trash from the environment.

The fact is, dead animals are not disgusting, nor should they be considered offensive. Their bodies are vital to the survival of the ecosystem of which they are a part. Take, for example, the deer: she died in January, a victim of the harsh winter. Almost immediately, the coyotes find her body and gorge themselves, as they, too, are very hungry. Arriving next are the raccoons, foxes, and mink; even a bald eagle might help itself to the available flesh. So too will the crows and ravens, who pick at even the smallest scraps of meat. Porcupines, squirrels, and mice gnaw at the skeleton for needed calcium, and chickadees and woodpeckers cling to the bones and scavenge for nutrient-rich suet. When the air warms and insects awake from their wintertime torpor, burying beetles and flies flock to what is left of the body, where they lay their eggs. Their larvae dine on the very last of the remaining marrow and connective tissues, leaving behind a pile of disarticulated bones. The skeleton will eventually dissolve, returning at last to the soil.

The entire process is, in itself, beautiful. It is a ritual that has been perfected by nature, where nothing is wasted. The death of an animal in its environment, while perhaps painful and tragic for that particular being, is absolutely vital to countless other creatures living in that same ecosystem.

When I encounter a dead animal, it gives me pause. I consider the animal, its life, and how it might have died, but I also consider how many other animals have depended upon the body, and how many more will in the coming days and months. As I reflect upon this deceased creature and its place in the ecosystem, I photograph it. I regard each dead animal I find as an individual, and therefore I treat it as such. I choose to photograph these animals respectfully, portraying them as the dignified creatures they are, in life. These animals, in every stage of their decay, are beautiful if not interesting, and I try to represent that through my photography. It is my mission to sway the overwhelming public opinion of these dead animals: they are not offensive, they are not repulsive, and they are not useless creatures.

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