[Animals were there at the beginning of art. But how did we get from Chauvet to "Dogs Playing Poker" and beyond? That's a question 13.7 asked with this month's series, "Ars Animalis"—art of the animals. For the final post, a bit of a different look—"art" made by animals; in this case, elephants.]
There are two kinds of elephant art (that is, "art” made by elephants). One is representational, the kind made by Hong, a nine-year-old female elephant who lives at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"Two years ago, Hong began painting with her mahout, Noi Rakchang, and has steadily developed her skills," according to the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP), a charity dedicated to saving Asian elephants. Started by the Russian-born American conceptual art duo Komar and Melamid, AEACP raises funds by selling elephant art. Hong and her mahout are members.
"After learning how to paint flowers, she moved on to more advanced paintings. She now has two specialties. One is an elephant holding flowers with her trunk, and the other is the Thai flag. An elephant with so much control and dexterity is capable of amazing work. Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brushstrokes not Hong painting a still life on her own."
The other kind of elephant painting is abstract. Those paintings are made by elephants who are given paint-laden brushes and a blank canvas and freedom to paint whatever they want. That's more the style of Nom Chok, a 14-year-old male elephant living at the Ayuttaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal in Ayuttaya, Thailand.
"Komar & Melamid brought the idea of teaching elephants how to paint from US zoos to the impoverished countryside of Southeast Asia, where the much needed ban on logging in the late 80's left the remaining few thousand elephants and their caretakers out of work," according to the artist statement on the AEACP website.
"The extensive logging of the countryside and the explosion of the human population in the area led to the destruction of much of the elephants' natural habitat, leaving them with no wild to return to. Thousands of elephants and their lifelong caretakers were left without financial support and have since been forced to beg for food on crowded city streets. The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project is designed to help these surviving elephants and the people that care for them."
- Do you consider paintings made by elephants to be "art"? [add comment]
- Are humans the only species that can create art? [add comment]
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