Wookjae Maeng is a South Korean whose experiences with wildlife during his stays in North America informed his nature-conscious art. He hopes that his work can effect “small, positive changes” by stimulating people’s interest in social issues.
“The theme of my work is to represent the complex, ambiguous and uncomfortable relationship between man and animal. Nature and animals have been an object of art for a long time. And, they will continue to be so until the fall of man, although the point of view is ever-changing. There are many living creatures on the earth. The human is on the top of the ecological pyramid now and can manage all kinds of fellow creatures. However, the environmental situation continues to worsen and that tension is what I wish to explore.”
In his works included below we can see Wookjae Maeng’s spin on taxidermy. Here we have ceramic rams, rhinoceroses and deer, their innate natural beauty enhanced by the artist’s work. But rather than show these fantastical creatures in their natural habitats, Wookjae Maeng presents them to us as trophies. They’re robbed of their agencies as living things and become possessions to adorn someone’s wall. While one can’t really assume that non-human creatures have human emotions, the bitter, angry expressions we’re seeing on some of these figures can’t be a mistake. Therefore, if you ever come across a bright yellow deer grazing in a neon field, maybe you should appreciate it for what it is and leave it alone.
Wookjae Maeng graduated with an MFA in 2008 from Gothenburg University. His awards include honors from the International Ceramics Studio, Hungary; the International Ceramic Research Center, Denmark; The Banff Centre for The Art, Canada and the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, USA.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Above image: Wookjae Maeng, from Adaptation – Big Horn Sheep.
Any thoughts about this post? Share yours in the comment box below.