Art of Science: Juan Travieso Paints Endangered Species

Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013
Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Earth Day seems like the perfect moment to showcase the work of Juan Travieso, a Cuban-born painter based in Miami. Travieso’s oil and acrylic paintings feature endangered species, particularly a vast array of endangered birds, juxtaposed against design elements that suggest encroaching buildings, technology, and disease – in other words, some of the things that endanger them.

In a recent interview with the art blog Hi-Fructose, Travieso explained his inspiration. “As a part of nature, I am aware of the fact that we are trying so hard as a species to disconnect ourselves from what we are. I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist and as a citizen of the world to give voice to the powerless species on this earth. Therefore, I have been focusing on endangered species for the last six years. One of my goals is to paint all of the endangered birds in the world.”

The ambitious scale of that goal is part of the point. Travieso notes that after two years of painting endangered birds, he realized that the message of the paintings would be magnified by their sheer number.  “The more different species I painted, the more the audience would understand the great value of their loss. One of my dreams is to have a retrospective with all of my bird paintings under the same roof. It would be a grand statement on the toll we have taken on nature.”

You can read the full interview here  and see the full Endangered Birds series at Travieso’s website.

Camouflage is No Protection in Fiona Hall’s Hunter’s Den

Pezopourous frontalAustralian artist Fiona Hall has often focused her work on the interaction between humans and their natural environment. For last year’s Documenta 13 show in Germany, she turned her attention to some of the victims of the ongoing struggle between man and land: endangered animals.

Hall created a “21st century hunter’s den” filled with mounted specimens – sculptures of animals on the IUCN Red List of threatened or endangered species. She made much of their “feathers” and “fur” from military camouflage uniforms from the animals’ home territories. This is an ambiguous choice – it suggests both the negative effects of military action on animal habitats as well as the natural camouflage that animals use to protect themselves. Some of her “taxidermied” creatures look disconcertingly chipper, too – like this Australian Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis / night parrot, 2009-2011). But her overall intent is highly serious: to remind us that one tragic and irreversible aspect of human conflict is animal extinction.  Ultimately, camouflage may not protect any of us.

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