Trophies and Prey: A Contemporary Bestiary at Peters Projects, in Santa Fe (August 7 to October 3, 2015) is an engaging, provocative postmodern survey of animal sculpture in ceramics and multi-media that is rich in symbolism, metaphor and eco-activism. The curators are our editor Garth Clark and treasurer, Mark Del Vecchio. It is also a fundraiser for CFile Foundation and a portion of the income will come to our nonprofit.
It is also a special event for Beth Cavener who, after being sidetracked with a the arrival of her son and a new studio, is back with five pieces for this exhibition.
The term, Bestiary, coined in 1840, has literary roots. Webster’s dictionary describes it as, “a medieval allegorical or moralizing [volume] on the appearance and habits of real or imaginary animals.” Also known as a Bestiarum vocabulum, it has roots in the ancient world but became popular during medieval times. It was an illustrated compendium of animals and plants, even rocks. But each subject was given virtuous meaning and often used animal actions as metaphors for human behavior (and misbehavior).
The curators, the internationally known authors, critics and ceramophiles, Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio, have assembled a contemporary bestiary in 3-D. Eleven artists—Undine Brod, Jeremy Brooks, John Byrd, Beth Cavener, Michelle Erickson, Alessandro Gallo, Jan Huling, Jeff Irwin, Kate MacDowell, Wookjae Maeng, Adelaide Paul—each bring their personal narratives; their charming and disturbing, wry and shocking observations, as well as their ethical questions about animal and man, explored mostly through the notion of a trophy.
At times the trophy in this exhibition is an abstract concept, at other times it is direct, the beheading of a creature and hanging its head and horns as an adornment on a wall. In the past this testified to the hunter’s valor, skill and ability to bring meat to the table. The hunting lodge of yore is a rich, visceral, pungent, masculine and atavistic piece of history at once heroic, intoxicating and for some, repellent (as anyone who has visited in the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) in Paris can attest.
The hunting lodge of today, however, is a very different matter. Tracking and killing animals is now purely a sport, with ethical and unethical practices, and is not essential for survival. That throws the notion of trophy into a different light. As one confronts the art, the animals in the galleries, often avatars for humans, look back at the viewer and ask, (Adelaide Paul’s work Trophy Wife being a good example) who truly is the hunter and who is the prey?
Welcome to the postmodern hunting lodge.
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