The Animal Other

sculpture by Kitty Blandy

sculpture by Kitty Blandy

The Nanaimo Art Gallery at Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Building 330, Nanaimo, is presenting a compelling group exhibition entitled The Animal Other until November 6, 2010. This art show features a variety of different works that reflect the nature of interactions between animals and human kind. The talented and skilled artists in the exhibition are Kitty Blandy, Lesley Clarke, Jan Gates, Chris Gillespie, Mary-Anne McTrowe, and Pamela Speight.

Former curator, Fran Benton describes the exhibit as focusing on “a membrane at the boundary between all that is animal and all that is man. It has been defined in many ways by our culture through social norms and biases, religions, and science. If all culture is stripped away we find no membrane because to be human is physically and psychologically animal. We are simply meat, bone, and tissue. Yet culture defines and limits animal to a wholly separate realm from human. We refer to the “animal” side of man but usually in a negative way. We acknowledge the “animalness” of human as a vile or brutal scenario. “He treated her like an animal”. “She had the savage nature of a cat” Occasionally we refer to the nobleness of an animal, its bravery, or the lengths to which it will go to protect it’s young. We rarely get to be close in any way to the membrane between animal and man.”

As Benton states; “We have most of the power in the animal/man relationship. That is until you encounter a grizzly with cubs on a remote hiking trail. We may imagine ourselves as animal, we may dress ourselves in the skins, fur, or fiber but we are not animal. To accomplish this we have to cross the membrane. When we try we are ignored, bitten, or devoured. In this show the artists imagine new ways to define the parameters of the relationships between animal and man.”

The artists in this show explore many ways this can be done. Chris Gillespie creates his own subtle scientific study of the traffic of ants in his studio. Pamela Speight talks about the relationship in her series of paintings Opportunists. These animals take advantage of human culture to exist. The animals within our minds are the inspiration for Jan Gates ghostly photographs. In these photographs she gives us something so supremely odd they look shamanic. Lesley Clarke tackles the issues of the animal body and what it can suggest. Their bodies furnish us with products that we in turn can place on our own bodies. Clarke, however, twists the idea by making the slippers with fiberglass resin thus rendering them stiff, scratchy, and unwearable.  This “trying on” of the animal has similarities to Kitty Blandy‘s chimeras. Blandy combines human heads on animal bodies that are humorous and unsettling. It’s the change of context and the sense of humour that brings us to the work of Mary-Anne McTrowe. She has been exploring the exotic world of ‘globsters’. These are the animals that wash up on beaches. McTrowe has decided to change the context of the ‘globsters’ to that of the textiles.

The Animal Other runs until November 6, 2010. Artist Lesley Clarke will give an Artist Talk on Tuesday, October 19th at noon. A Free Gallery Tour of this exhibition will occur on a Saturday afternoon in October, exact date to be announced on our webpage. For more information call 250-740-6350.