Keri Cronin, Chair of the Visual Arts department at Brock University, featured my painting Lucky in a recent column. Cronin’s column, Picturing Animals, found in the web journal Our Hen House, discusses artistic representations of animals, and their real world implications.
Cronin contacted me last summer about the painting. Lucky was purchased by a St. Catharines art collector at my 2004 Toronto show Veal. Cronin had seen the piece and got in touch with me about featuring it in her column. Her writing shows a clear understanding of my work and asks interesting questions:
In this painting, a rabbit wielding an oversized pair of scissors holds a small girl up by her hair. The girl’s hair, styled in braided “pigtails,” stretches out above her head, compositionally echoing the shape and position of a rabbit’s most identifying physiological trait, his or her ears. The visual similarity between pigtails and rabbit ears reinforces the blurring of boundaries between human and nonhuman in this picture. There is a sense of ominous uncertainty permeating the image. What will happen next?
This is a startling image, the jarring content reinforced by the large size of the canvas. At 36”x40” it has a commanding presence, and it is difficult to look away. This painting was part of a series called VEAL. Elliott describes this series as one “in which cute is set upon cute in a perversion of storybook norms.”
These are powerful images because they ask viewers to think about the many contradictions that exist in our relationships with nonhuman animals. For example, the title of Lucky makes reference to “lucky” rabbit foot key chains. I vividly recall these from my youth – a rabbit’s paw dangling from a gold clasp, the fur dyed a bright unnatural color. Some were made from fake fur, others were body parts of actual rabbits. I didn’t own one of these, but envied the kids in my class who did – they were “cool” items to have. Upon reflection, I realize with horror just how easy it was to ignore the connections between a rabbit’s foot keychain and the pet bunnies we cuddled, fed, and loved in our home.