Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Pick: Animal Sculpture

Amulet in the form of a couchant lion, 2900-2700BC, South Mesopotamia, Shell

Figurine of animal(dog or mushhushshu), 7th century BC, Assyrian, Ceramic

Unknown origins (as far as I could find)

Figure of a ram, 5th century AD, Egypt, Limestone

Water bird, 10th -16th centuries, Inuit, Canada, Bone/Ivory 

Tommy, Whalebone Bear, 20th century, Inuit, Canada, Whalebone

Stephanie Cunningham, Dog in the Wind, contemporary, Cornwall, UK

I've been looking at small animal sculptures recently.  It sort of started with teaching, there is a section on animals in art that I cover where I first saw some beautiful renderings of animals from ancient cultures.  They had such specificity and beauty (like the first image), some showing power, some caution, some even humor and so on.  

I had a professor, I don't even remember who at this point, but I'll always remember what they said, you can't paint an animal that's not cute.  It always seemed like a challenge and it seemed right at the time but also like it couldn't possibly be the case.  I think part of why that sentiment rang true might be because of how we interact with animals in contemporary life.  Or at least how most of us do; as pets and at a distance.  I also think it has to do with the hoards of awful, terrible pet portraits that exist and pervade any google image search for 'animal art.'

But there are exquisite, complex depictions of animals that have been done throughout time and are still being made.  I particularly find the figurines captivating.  I like thinking about how many of them are made from materials these animals lived with or even the bones of the animal itself.  A very relevant example for students of the importance of choice of material in creating content in a work.


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