"Beasts of Burden," a group art show I'm in of 13 artists exploring our complex relationship with animals, curated by Jane O'Hara, opens in Boston tonight, Thursday, March 13, at the Harvard Allston Educational Portal Galleries with a reception from 5:30 - 8pm.
If there's one piece that exemplifies the show for me, it is Jane O'Hara's Sacrifice, a 5-foot tall screen that depicts nine animals wearing the vestments of the companies to which they have sacrificed their lives. Reflecting on the work, Jane says:
Years ago I attended the Byzantium show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was struck by the images of people who had sacrificed their lives to God, the vestments they wore, and the gold leaf the artists used to create the spirit-filled environment. The notion occurred to me that animals sacrifice their lives to a power greater than themselves every day - millions of animals giving their lives and freedom. Of course the glaring difference is that in the case of the animals, this is not their choice.
My goal is to bring attention to these loving beings. There's a lot going on behind closed doors. While we shower our animal companions with love, we often ignore the fact that the "power greater than us" that is controlling many beings’ lives, has become the greed of the Corporation, not the love of God."
The Chimp wears the Columbia University T-shirt. Cruel experiments there have taken the life, and any semblance of quality of life, from many primates.
The Cat wears the vestment bearing the logo of March of Dimes. This charity spends part of its charitable gifts for vivisectors to sew kittens' eyes shut, implant wires into the uteruses of pregnant monkeys, and administer cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol to pregnant rats.
The Elephant wears garb with the symbol of "The Greatest Show on Earth," Ringling Bros Circus, who take calves from their mothers and beat, chain and torture these kind beasts until they will do what is completely unnatural to them - all for a laugh.
The Rabbit is adorned with the Proctor and Gamble logo, a company that confines rabbits to stocks while chemicals eat away the soft skin on their backs or in their sensitive eyes. The rabbits are then killed; their lives snuffed out in misery for just one more meaningless number on a chart.
The Rat wears the vestment of Pfizer, one of the largest, but certainly not only, drug company that conducts any number of invasive painful experiments to test their drugs and get patents. Many of the results are meaningless, as humans are (surprise) quite different from rats and mice and what may work on the rodent will not on a human. And there are humane alternatives
The Cow has probably the most recognizable logo that exists in the world right now, McDonalds. These cows exist in overcrowded feedlots, fed "food" that is not meant for cows, getting increasingly sick, pumped up with drugs to keep then alive long enough to get fat and sometimes dragged to the slaughterhouse, all so the consumer can have their ridiculously cheap burger.
The Chicken has another well known logo, KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken has ignored pleas to at least support chicken producers that don’t have the worst level of cruelty. The chickens have their beaks cut of, and many are literally crammed into each cage the size of a piece of paper. Their "lives" are spent not moving, their feet growing into the wire they stand on. The egg is the same sad story.
The Dog wears the vestment bearing the logo of Iams dog food. Iams conducts nutritional experiments on cats and dogs. Repeatedly they have ignored pleas to properly treat the wounds of animals injured in captivity. The dogs get no play time and live in cages alone and suffering.
The Pig is in the garb of Smithfield Farms. The most hideous (but not the only) factory farm where pigs are crammed into pens, in a dark disease-filled environment. Driven insane by the ammonia smell and cramped conditions, the pigs become violent towards each other. To "help" this situation their tails are cut off with no anesthesia so they can’t bite each other’s tail. Mother pigs are kept in gestation crates where they cannot turn around.
I hope you can see Sacrifice in person. And say hi to my dox-ZENS if you do.