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Friday, July 8, 2011

Call of the Wild: "A Live Animal" Exhibition Explores Humans' Relationships with Nature

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Ardent Evolution - KATE STIRR
  • Kate Stirr
  • Ardent Evolution
"Sometimes it's not obvious how one can relate to a trout," says artist Karl Cronin.

Um, yes. That would probably be true for most people. But maybe we should give it a try, suggests Root Division's upcoming interdisciplinary exhibition A Live Animal, which explores the relationship between humans and other species. It opens Saturday at Root Division.

A Live Animal presents the works of more than 20 artists from a diverse range of art disciplines, all seeking to explore aspects of interspecies exchange and to understand what other species have to teach us about our own nature.

The four Bay Area artists who spoke with SF Weekly echoed the same themes.

"I find it funny that we as humans think that we aren't animals," says S.F. artist Sarah Smith. "To fool ourselves that we're different in any way is misguided."

Berkeley-based Kate Stirr agrees: "I think the show ... acknowledges the fact that we are animals too, which I think sometimes people forget, because we like to distance ourselves."

While many artists feel the same urge to reconnect with nature, their approaches are very different. One of Smith's drawings for the show depicts an owl among trees barks that is so well-camouflaged that it's hard to find.

"As a person, I try to tread very lightly on the world," she says. "So maybe it's sort of a self-portrait."

Owl - SARAH SMITH
  • Sarah Smith
  • Owl
Stirr, meanwhile, created a stop-motion animation of a paddler in a kayak who goes out to sea. In a series of metamorphoses she describes as "our wistful relationship with the natural world," the paddler melts into the kayak, the boat disintegrates into the skeleton of a seal, and the skeleton morphs into a fully fleshed seal that swims off into the ocean depths.

"When we pay attention to animal behavior on a more regular basis, I think it helps us simplify our own lives a little bit," she says. "Even just watching the gulls soaring around, it's good to be reminded of the joy of life."

Less conventional is Cronin's installation Somatic Natural History Archive, a documentation of his encounters with 10,000 plants and animals which he estimates will take 50 years to complete.

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Caroline Chen

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