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[teacherartexchange] Aesthetic Issues: Animal Art (Is it Art?)


From: Judy Decker (judy.decker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Nov 16 2006 - 08:10:03 PST

Dear Art Educators,

Robert Genn gave me permission to post a recent newsletter (from Aug. 10)......

From Robert Genn:

It's well documented that monkeys can paint and do other
creative things. Less well known are the artistic elephants at
various zoos throughout the world. You may have heard of The
Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project in which Thai,
Indian and Cambodian elephant-art raises funds for endangered
South-Asian pachyderms. A mural by "Mandan," for example, was
recently sold for $8500. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado
Springs, Colorado is offering "Lucky's trunkprints" and
"Kimba's footprints." These are reasonably priced conversation
pieces suitable for home or office. Both Asian and African
elephants are happier and live more enriched lives because of
this art movement.

In more avant-garde circles, earthworms and other annelids have
been pressed into the service of art. Worms, when left in paint
and given some time are capable of remarkable Pollock-like
effects. Currently, there's a trend to explore the artistry of
insects. Last year at the Tate Modern in London, England, I saw
a "World Wide Flag" installation conceived and presented by
Japanese-American artist Yukinori Yanagi. It was entirely the
work of ants.

With our own talented family it's only natural that one of our
pets might show ability. Our son Dave and his wife Tamara have
such a one in their Airedale "Stanley." Working mainly in
non-toxic acrylics, Stanley prefers wet-in-wet and alla prima.
He has a special easel that is best set up outdoors on moist
days. Small pieces of cheese are placed on a shelf at the top
of the easel. Stanley steps forward putting his paws onto the
palette area, then jumps up on the canvas to get the cheese.
Paws make remarkably expressive brushes. A paintbrush
duct-taped to his wagging tail has been less satisfactory.
Stanly moves fast--sometimes he'll do two or three 24" x 30"s
in a session.

Stanley, of necessity, is an abstract expressionist. We have to
be careful that he doesn't overwork things. As in elephant-art,
a human has to stand by, make a judgment call, and take the
work away at the appropriate time. Stanley is fairly excitable
and the surrounding area can become quite a mess. After he's
finished, he has to be hosed, which is the only part of the
process he doesn't like. It's my job to sign his work. While
Stanley knows his name, he's not able to actually write it. In
order to get a better idea of Stanley's process, I've asked
Andrew to put up a few pictures in the current clickback. See
URL below.

Best regards,


PS: "Don't kid yourself Dad, it's not the art, it's the
cheese." (Dave Genn)

Esoterica: Kamala, an Asian elephant at the Calgary Zoo, just
completed her 500th painting. It sold on eBay for $1,175. The
money will go toward renovating and enlarging her enclosure.
She shares her space with her daughter, Maharani, a friend,
Swarna, and a bull elephant by the name of Spike. The Calgary
Zoo Elephant Painting Program brings in over $50,000 a year
towards the betterment of incarcerated elephants. Like Stanley
the Airedale, Kamala the Elephant also has trouble knowing when
to stop painting. As Picasso said, "In order to be a painter,
you need to know how to paint, and when to stop."

Current clickback: If you would like to see selected,
illustrated responses to the last letter, "How to help other
artists," as well as demo photos of what you need to get your
pet started in art, please go to:

(c) Copyright 2006 Robert Genn.

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Here is a site for Asian Elephant Art:
Google search brings up more.

Back in the early 90's, we talked about Ruby. She was one of the first.
A Google search will bring up info about her.

Judy Decker
Incredible Art Department
Incredible Art Resources

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