Since discovering items made with real fur on Etsy, I’ve struggled with this conundrum: how is it that some “artists,” of all people, could possibly be part of cruelty to other living beings? Isn’t the very nature of being an artist something that results in a more compassionate, holistic view of life?
Which got me thinking. What is an artist? How do we become artists and what makes us different?
As children, we all start out as blank slates. Of course, our environment weighs heavily on the people we become. But there’s an innate wonder and curiosity about the world around us that is beautifully evident in children’s artwork. They do silly things, brilliant abstracts, wildly original compositions. (I think this is because they’re free from the cliches and knowledge and self-criticism that limit our creativity as we mature.) And there always seems to be a fascination and admiration for other forms of life besides their own, as children often depict animals in their artwork. Children are naturally drawn to animals, understanding, from a very deep place, that they are important cohabitants with us on this planet. Beautiful, interesting, scary, soft, cute, ugly. But always fascinating.
Perhaps artists are a bit different than non-artists because we retain a little more of this precious curiosity as we mature. Maybe, it’s because we really see. Our eyes remain wide open, and must be so, in order to create. In keeping our eyes open, we can see the intricate, almost unimaginable beauty of another living being. Whether that being is a person or a dog or a mink or a mouse, there is a complex system inside them that creates such a stunning exterior. And, in working with living subject matter, there is a sacred relationship we develop with them. How can this not be? To look so closely into the eyes of another living being is to see the world and the beauty of life reflected back at you. It’s surreal. It’s life-changing. And when you’ve done this, you can not possibly be capable of taking that life away.
The death of another living being, especially for such a purpose as creating fur, is unconscionable. It goes against the very nature of who we are as artists. We are the visionaries, the big picture thinkers, who see the sacred relationship between all living things. To exterminate life is the antithesis of appreciating it. And appreciating it is the very first step—as even children inherently know— in making art.
Friday, February 19, 2010