• by Vanessa Werring

"Animal I Become"

Our latest collaboration with artist Treacy Ziegler is a powerful multimedia exhibition with a profound message about our relationship to animals and how we seek to negotiate their existence. Ziegler carefully included works which would serve not only as contemplations on this theme, but also as examples of how new, more objective relationships with animals can be forged. The artists featured in “Animal I Become” are prominent members of our artistic community with clear and distinct voices well worthy of our attention. If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition, here’s what you’re missing:

Sculptor Diane Collins is presenting five astonishing assemblages, two of which incorporate embellished animal skulls and three constructed from painted ceramic. These commanding sculptures have qualities that are both rugged and delicate and speak to what we intrinsically have in common with animals, closing the chasm between the primitive and civilized world.

Photographer Denis DeFibaugh’s photographs of endangered species are taken from his series “Afterlifes of Natural History”. These images are digitally printed from unprocessed, oxidized film. The result is a magnificent array of color and texture. “The duality of preservation and decay is at the crux of these photographs” DeFibaugh says of “Afterlifes” which has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine.

A fascination with oddities and carnival culture inspired artist James G. Mundie’s collection of drawings, “Prodigies: Congress of Oddities”. Our curiosity is immediately aroused by these meticulous pen and ink portraits of freak show performers placed in the context of historical works of art. In blending the grotesque with traditional aesthetic elements, Mundie “tests” our tolerance for aberration.

Painter Georganna Lenssen creates for us an ethereal atmosphere in which wild dogs roam gracefully, with an almost noble demeanor. Through her expert blending of abstraction and realism, Lenssen shows us in this body of work how our expectations can skew perception, depriving us of the opportunity to see our own diverse nature in other creatures.

Sculptor Julia Levitina’s bronze pieces “Meno” and “Euthyphro” embody both the delicacy and resilience that are characteristic of hares. Masterfully executed, these sculptures convey the weight and agility these animals possess, reminding us that a mild exterior can give way to great strength and self-sufficiency.

Painter and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Professor Jill Rupinski is showing a beautifully sensitive collection of paintings from a body of work she created in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States. The animals (or sheep) in her work represent people and the landscape, often obscured by darkness or fallen trees, represents the impact that moment had on so many lives.

Artist Sylvia Taylor’s mixed media prints initially appear playful as her subjects are quiet and endearing. This gives way however to a more a somber narrative: the artist places her subjects in uncertain or precarious situations where time, place and identity are unclear. Through these exquisite prints, Taylor exposes us to a world richly layered with mystery and superb skill.

Sculptor Gary Weisman offers us two majestic horses in bronze, one a dark thoroughbred which has taken off at lightning speed and the other, warhorse with a vibrant green patina recoiling in terror. Both pieces inspire a deep empathy as we experience the emotion of these creatures through their impeccable gesture and expression.

Master printer and painter Treacy Ziegler debuts her first body of work in sculpture, a collection of bronze animals which the artist anthropomorphized through expression and body language. Brilliantly colored and composed, these sculptures engage with us in a way that transcends language, allowing us to understand and sympathize with their plight.

“Animal I Become” is on view now through April 30th at Stanek Gallery. Visit to view the full collection.

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