As with other brilliant eye-opening artists whom we’ve featured here in the “Art of the Animal” section of Our Hen House, Colleen Plumb has a cutting-edge, cerebral way of combining her vortex of talent as a photographer with her clear passion for animals. On the artist statement for her current exhibit, “Animals Are Outside Today,” Plumb states:
Contradictions define our relationships with animals. We love and admire them; we are entertained and fascinated by them; we take our children to watch and learn about them. Animals are embedded within core human history — evident in our stories, rituals and symbols. At the same time, we eat, wear and cage them with seeming indifference, consuming them, and images of them, in countless ways.
I was able to visit “Animals Are Outside Today,” currently on display at the Jen Bekman Gallery in NYC’s Nolita. Not knowing what to expect, and admittedly not an art connoisseur, I left the exhibit feeling an array of emotions: moved, saddened, hopeful, and inspired. Each of her photographs manages to find the animal, and literally focus on the animal, who might otherwise be overlooked — from a joyous glimpse of a horse standing free in the snow, to the despair of a circus elephant lying defeated as audience members gawk, to the soul-stirring wildness of migrating geese in a V-formation on a grey-skied, urban day. As I viewed them, I realized that unless they are made of stone, other people, even ones who have never before considered animal issues, will catch Plumb’s drift. As her statement goes on to explain:
Our connection to animals today is often developed through assimilation and appropriation; we absorb them into our lives, yet we no longer know of their origin. Most people are cut off from the steps involved in their processing or acquisition, shielded from witnessing their death or decay. This work moves within these contradictions, always questioning if the notion of the sacred, and the primal connection to Nature that animals convey and inspire, will survive alongside our evolution.
The juxtaposition of animals in confinement, there to “amuse” or “entertain,” versus those who are free — the aforementioned geese, the humps of a horse with a mountainous snowy background — is enough for anyone to take note, and, hopefully, take inventory. I get tearful when artists like Colleen Plumb display their animal-centric artwork in galleries like Jen Beckman’s (and kudos to Beckman for providing this space for such a necessary, provocative exhibit). It is, in so many ways, a deep and profound kind of animal activism that is unrivaled.
See below for some images from “Animals Are Outside Today” by Colleen Plumb, but if you’re at all able, go see the exhibit in person. You can also see more pieces from this exhibit online at the Jen Bekman Gallery website.
*Photo at top of blog entry (main photo): “Mold-a-Rama Dinosaur with Ruth” by Colleen Plumb (Jen Bekman Gallery)