I’m with Everyone Else
The concept for this piece was shaped by the idea of how humans separate themselves from animals. Humans attempt to create a separation between animals and themselves, emphasizing a superiority predicated on clothes, technology, physical attributes, social structure, an enforced dominance most readily seen in the caging of animals, and so on. In reality, however, humans are just as much animals as what they believe animals to be, and animals may actually be closer to the image we have created for ourselves than humans give them credit.
For my senior show, I have used two methods of creating an image. With one of the techniques, I have drawn seven life-sized illustrations of various haplorhine primates based upon photographs. These illustrations are realistic drawings of a Gorilla, Squirrel Monkey, Black Spider Monkey, Orangutan, Emperor Tamarin, Proboscis Monkey, and a Bonobo. It is also important to note that these drawings were created from photographs. They have gone through multiple processes in order to achieve the final product of a photorealistic drawing. The drawings speak to a technical sophistication because they have come from life, been translated through a camera, and then turned into a photorealistic drawing. The haplorhine primates are drawn in a manner that emphasizes the time involved and the meticulous process that went into creating each piece. The drawing morphs from a realistic depiction of the primates and flows into pure line in order to create forms that highlight the drawing practice. The surface that these primates are drawn on also directly relates to the complexity of technology. The primates are drawn on tracing paper. Tracing paper is most commonly used to copy or trace an image. It is a surface that was developed to reproduce the sophistication and detail related to, and found in, photographs in order to create photorealistic images. The other method of image-making that I used is the body print, which was created by pouring red paint on my body and imprinting myself on a piece of drawing paper. These prints are displayed behind the drawings. The body prints contrast with the drawings because of the direct and expressive manner in which they were created. They are created in a singular raw moment. The only tool in creating the piece is the body. The body prints are simply made with one tool and one material. These prints are also done on a surface that links the prints to a primordial form of art. The crème drawing paper is meant to further relate the body prints to a primitive and prehistoric way of making art because of the color crème’s relation to ancient scrolls and old documents, providing a historical context that promotes the idea and importance of time. Another aspect of the piece that separates these two techniques further is the way in which the subject is posed. Each primate drawing is posed in a professional and classic demeanor. They sit, elegantly looking off into the distance, or they look straight at the viewer in a humanistic pose. With the body prints, however, these allude to a more primitive way of presenting oneself. The body prints display a naked body in active and expressive poses. The poses that each of these techniques are depicted in also relates to two separate art forms: portraiture and cave paintings. The history of portraiture is evident within the primate drawings. Portraiture is meant to capture the prestige and highlight the significance of its subject. The use of charcoal in the drawings also relates to the history of portraiture because of its use throughout art history in creating detailed drawings and sketches of the artists’ subjects. Cave paintings, however, are used to depict a story or an emotion. They represent a moment that is filled with instinct and sensation. The reference to cave painting directly relates to the almost primal use of paint for the body prints because cave painting was the first form of painting. Cave paintings utilized the body and pigment to create figurative and abstract imagery. These pigments were most often the color red. The use of the red paint also speaks to this raw form. Red communicates ideas of the body and energy. It relates to blood and how it is the purest form of existence. With all of these juxtapositions in mind, the two different depictions of the animals are viewed with one on top of the other. The image of the haplorhine primate is placed on top of the body print. This layering emphasizes the separation that has been created between the animal and the human, even though that’s exactly what humans are. The layering is also meant to enforce the idea of how closely related we are to other primates, though humans maintain and expand their separation from these relatives. This creates a role reversal that switches the ideas that humans normally associate with themselves and other animals. The role reversal presents the haplorhine primates in a position that is normally given to humans, while the human is represented with a technique that is typically associated with primates. Both of the images are then scrolled at each end of the paper. The scroll comments on the importance of this reversal, primarily because of the relation of significant documents to scrolls. It also alludes to the historical nature of scrolls, which further emphasizes the concept of importance.
With my senior exhibition, I investigate what humans believe to be their role as the creator, the protector, the investigator, the destroyer, and the leader, then challenge these fixed ideas by presenting a new outlook of what has been taken as truth for so long. I explore the relation between haplorhine primates and humans. The reason for this is because haplorhine primates are directly linked to humans through the idea of evolution, though they are still considered widely different because of a human’s higher developed brain. In my piece, I reverse these roles between the human and the ape, relating the human form to the primal and animalistic while personifying the animal by exhibiting it with a pride and regality that is not usually associated with it. While creating this piece, I was influenced by artists who held similar ideas about the relations between humans and animals. One of the artists I looked at was Pierre Huyge, specifically his short film Untitled (Human Mask). This film brings human and ape together by shooting an ape performing waitress activities while wearing a mask of a young woman. It is meant to be a film confronting the human condition and the intricacy of non-human forms of intelligence and communication. He is drawing a parallel between the relationship of humans and apes. Another artist that influenced this piece was Walton Ford. Ford is known for creating enormous paintings of animals. Ford, who found inspiration from Audubon, who I looked at as well while creating this piece, creates violent images of animals, imagery that incorporates primal activities such as feasting and the killing of other animals. His work, however, does not speak about animals. He confronts colonialism, conservation, and human nature. He relays these interpretations to the viewer by depicting the animals he paints in specific locations, with specific demeanors, or performing specific humanistic acts.