The catalogue for the haunting "Other as Animal" show at Danese Gallery in New York City (which runs from June 4 through August 6th ) -- offers a quote from the naturalist writer, Henry Beston, about the "other" that animals are to us. "They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations."
With an eye to this startling observation, the show is curated by the artist April Gornik -- and it features art works of great variety and insistence -- underscoring the mystery of each bordered yet infinite "nation".
April Gornik's own land-sea-sky scapes depict nature as an object of regard -- but "human perspective" neither encloses nor limits the mysterious emotion that flows from her apprehension of the "other". Thus she locates the focus of the show not at the place where artists "express themselves" but rather at an "intersection of consciousness" (as she says of the work of participating artists Lucy Winton and Jill Musnicki).
It is very hard to articulate the emotion that animals draw from us -- they are, to quote Beston again, "gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear." So we struggle to understand the elicted emotion -- is it merely anthropomorphic?
So we have Eric Fischl's powerful depiction of a dying bull in a bullfight, dwarfing by "its pain and pathos" a human figure -- and John O'Reilly's sculpture of a dying dog, : "Bitch". The emaciated dog is a mother whose extended nipples display the desperation to live of her dying young. Both works seem to ask for conventional compassion -- but both far outdistance the expectations and objectification of pity.
There are other sculptures (Daisy Youngblood's "self-contained" Donkey and Jane Rosen's stunning Goshawk) -- plus paintings and drawings. There is Ross Bleckner's "world of birds", and Jean Pagliuso's brilliant chickens, Amy Ross' half-budding jays, Catherine Howe's "gigantic hummingbird forms". And startling sheep (Simen Johan) and snails and spiders (Sally Gall) and Diane Andrews Hall's emblematic robin.
And more. April Gornik quotes Ted Hughes (master of animal poems -- inspiring one to think of D.H. Lawrence's dark blood-driven beasts, John Clare's badger and Rilke's panther.) She notes that "we are smarter than animals" -- but that they represent our "emotional selves, our persevering selves".
But walking through this show, you may feel (as Henry Beston did) -- that animals are differently "gifted" -- hearing and seeing what we do not -- gifted with what the ancients called "sagesse" or animal wisdom. Perhaps "smarter" in a whole different way, a way to which we might attend and learn -- alive as we are at this intersection of consciousness.
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