Amy Gardner Dean Artist’s Statement
It all began back in 1991 with an emu over a century old, and the vivid memory of a Presbyterian Minister who had once informed me in my pre-teens that animals did not go to heaven when they pass away…
It haunted me, I could not comprehend that an animal was soul-less, spiritless, and lacked intelligence enough to be of value or worth to God—that had supposedly created them—would not want them upon their exit from this world.
This sentence passed brought on my grief, my attention, and eventual obsession of their observation; an attempt to prove that they possessed that which it took to be of this so-called “higher value.”
The emu came into play during an assignment in college. The painting assignment was to visit the biology lab and return with an animal as a painting subject, which I was not interested in doing, that day… I smugly returned with a towering, decrepit emu that had been mounted and stuffed in the mid-1880’s. It stunk of it!
Ironically, the emu inadvertently ended up sparking a fire that fueled an emotional artistic quest… one that I am still on. The drive and intensity to portray creatures, whether in the zoo, the home, or environment, began. The purpose was to encourage ANYONE to see, even feel, that there was intelligence present in their furred bodies; feelings of joy, nurturing, anger, contentment, and confusion confined in even these “lowly” life forms, that go unnoticed or ignored by so many people.
The zoo is a favorite place to be. The idea of adaptation to this confined environment is of great interest to me; sometimes delighting, sometimes frustrating. Through my paintings I need others to see what I view in my observations, experiencing the feelings and first hand effects of the captive environment. It is, at times, reminiscent of the prison I once taught in; a federal prison where men had various sentences for a vast variety of crimes. Like the animals, some made the best of it and adapted, even flourishing despite the confines and repetitive routine of daily life. Others, like some animals, resorted to extremes in dealing with the restrictive confines. The comparisons are quite remarkable.
What time frame will this animal obsession occupy in my life? Each creature I portray extends my interest further into the scope of it all… sometimes, the backgrounds of these works become an abstraction of the animal, as their personalities dictate. Who knows where it leads. Perhaps it will continue until I feel confidently assured of their universal worth in not only the grand scheme of life’s circle, but into the beyond…