The wildLIFE Project is a body of work that serves to illustrate and project to its viewers the plight of elephants and rhinoceros. These animals are being killed off in alarming numbers for their ivory and their horns, only to serve the vain needs of humans. This work is to be exhibited alongside an interpretive exhibition that will show graphs, maps, photos and videos that serves to educate the viewer further, with the intent of educating them about the vulnerability of these animals. This project will also bring awareness to the problem of wild animal poaching and the need for wildlife protection.
The wildLIFE Project has been percolating for the past few years, but my passion for animals and particularly wildlife, goes back to childhood. In 2004, my first piece about the demise of wild animals was completed after a visit to Tasmania, Australia. Having read about the extinction of animals as a child, I wanted to build a shrine to the Tasmanian Tiger. This issue is now emerging as a priority as I read about the thousands of elephants and rhinoceros being poached monthly and I can no longer only shed tears.
In recent years my work has taken a narrative direction, integrating images and text into shrine-like cabinet forms. An earlier work, Executive Order 9066, addressed the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II. The resulting exhibition was accompanied by a mini interpretive museum (inspired by regional museums one finds scattered across the US) showing facts, statistics, maps, archival objects and photos. This project was successful in that it became a community project, not only drawing artists and art lovers but also the broader communities, (Asian Americans, American history high school students). The project served to educate many Americans that knew very little about this unfortunate piece of history. Moving forward, this will be my template for the wildLIFE Project, where the ultimate goal remains the same asExecutive Order 9066: that is to inform, as well as engage the viewers emotionally. It will also draw more advocates to this important cause.
My wildLIFE Project will similarly rely on photos, text, maps, and charts. These details are critical to enhance the emotional weight of the theme. It will be necessary to provide graphic images in order to heighten the viewers’ consciousness about the fact that these animals are fast approaching extinction. The work will take on some characteristics of thebutsudan (The butsudan is a Buddhist shrine that is kept in the home to honor deceased family members) as a means of mourning the loss of so many animals. As a furniture maker, I want to build a series of these shrines – I have experimented with the cabinet form for many years now, and have found this form to be extremely effective in providing a housing for a diorama, or a miniature stage set. I have confidence in working this way and am excited about the new subject matter that I will incorporate into these pieces. Some will house images that will depict these animals, both alive, and (tragically) dead.
I will draw on the notion of how these animals come into our childhoods, and how in reality, these majestic animals belong not in circuses or zoos, but in LIFE, they belong in the wild. I have a glimmer of hope that perhaps these animals can be saved – consequently not all the works will be foreboding. I hope to instill a sense of nostalgia related to my own childhood memories of animals and what they meant to me. This work will have a sense of wonder and fantasy of the existence of the animals’ magnificence. In addition to images I will continue using video in one or two of the works, much in the same manner as my other projects. I have found that video provides a layer of information that is less static and more emotive than photos.
I plan to also experiment with the application of these images onto glass, which will add depth to my cabinet forms when they are open. I will be an artist in residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA in May 2013 and will be working with both cold and hot glass for this body of work. I am particularly excited about the prospects of transferring images onto flat glass sheets and using these in my work.
My supporters of the wildLIFE Project will receive a regular update from me through the blog that I will create. This blog will provide not only updates about my progress through photos and video, but also any information and links that may be relevant to my topic of wildlife preservation.