♢ EDITORIAL by Sal McIntyre, New York ♢
It seems everyone can agree that animals have on offer a special sorcery that creates incomparable ambiance— we all look on with rapt fascination when encountering animals in the wild or even as pets, as they proceed with a mysterious way of being that both delights and enchants. This is probably what has drawn artists from all walks of life to observe, understand and describe these remarkable beasts, and why animals feature so prominently in much of the world’s most compelling artwork. When communing with a piece of art of the animalian persuasion, it becomes apparent that definitions need not be inscribed, and a much more open, diverse and intricate atmosphere of resonance can be sprawled in— lending itself to a very natural and satisfying type of experience. Animals carry all of the subtleties and varied layers of human emotion, underscoring many of our favorite and most beautiful modus operandi.
Artist Benson Bond Moore (American, 1882-1974) was a landscape and animal portrait painter and etcher, born in Washington D.C. Sketching animals since childhood, often at the National Zoo, he went on to do over 3700 illustrations of animals in the newspaper The Evening Star's series "Nature's Children," and did numerous paintings for the Smithsonian that were reproduced in their "Scientific Series." He became a noted artist of scenes of nature, belonged to more than forty arts organizations, and had many one man shows, notably in 1928 at the Corcoran Gallery with his etchings, drypoints and lithographs. This piece White Herons at Home is especially enigmatic, showcasing Moore’s unparalleled combination of fine accuracy, lyrical grace and warmth of attitude.
Franz Marc was one of the key figures defining expressionist art in Europe at the precipice of the 20th century, exploring rich emotional terrain through the use of color and a sensibility approaching cubism— which in turn became highly influential to the fauvists and cubists thereafter. His work was characterized by a profound sense of emotion and passion, yet with a grounding starkness and structure. This work The Forest navigates what feels like a dreamscape, complete with all spectra of effervescence and shadow, his animals serving as a transport for all that exists in the spaces between sleeping and reality.
“Ashes and Snow” by artist Gregory Colbert is a fascinating movable art exhibit, designed in a shifting, traveling structure called the Nomadic Museum— which, since its inception in Venice, Italy in 2002, has been to New York City, California, Tokyo and Mexico City, and attracted over 10 million visitors, making it the most attended exhibition by a living artist in history. In each location, Colbert works with a design architect to fashion a space that engages with the local natural and anthropological history, creating breathtaking installations with which to house his images and project his films. His gorgeous photography and inventive, visionary concepts are truly transformative, nearly erasing the barriers between humans and animals, and subsequently throughout all of nature itself.
Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973) is considered one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, and has been described as "the Brazilian painter who best achieved Brazilian aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style." Her piece A Cuca highlights the fun and lighthearted rhythms to be experienced with animals, something equally charming and profound. Artist Will Barnet also takes this approach, with this signed 1979 silkscreen Animals & Art conjuring an endearingly, comically familiar scene.
Benton Spruance, creator of the epic collection of stone lithograph prints "Moby Dick Passion of Ahab," easily wraps his mind around the power instilled within a magnificent bird of prey. His piece Sky Hawk calls forth waves of energy and a reflection of the formidable beauty in nature, his fervent lines perfect for describing fierce feathers, beak and talons.
Walasse Ting has a beguiling ability to zero in on aspects of an animal’s true essence. His free-form brushstrokes and painterly approach capture a surprising amount of tangible reality, resulting in an enlightening original style that falls somewhere between sincerity and humor. This piece 3 Cats seems to encapsulate all of these qualities.
As with Pond with Goldfish by Joseph Raffael and so many others, art featuring animals resounds with all the tones of nature, and furthermore elevates an atmosphere with an additional character of existence, one that is both familiar and exotic, befriending and bewitching.