Human activity is causing the mass extinction of plant and animal species at an alarming rate. I paint carefully rendered, miniature portraits of endangered animals into larger compositions to raise questions about Earth’s biodiversity crisis and the place of wildlife within increasingly unstable habitats. The swirling and exploding shapes, bright colors, representational elements, and unlikely spatial relationships of the greater painting illustrate how our progressively chaotic environment is displacing fauna and the systems that support it.
From poaching, farming and agricultural projects, urbanization, and other operations that encroach on natural spaces; to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, higher temperatures, and the multiplying disasters such as fires, hurricanes, and floods that result from that; the wild animals on our planet are under tremendous risk of annihilation. The consequences of this jeopardize the future of all of us. As a species, humans are not independent from the natural world’s ecosystems. The impact of species loss on human survival is a deep concern that informs the ideas behind my artwork. I urge people to contemplate what we risk losing.
My current body of work was inspired by my time as an artist-in-residence at Recology. My project was to use discarded canvases I found in the trash (including amateur paintings and digitally printed, mass-produced artwork from large retailers) and over-paint them with recycled acrylic paint from the Household Hazardous Waste Program.
The abstraction in the paintings speaks to the environment of the Recology facility, a constantly churning and tumultuous place. This is where I began including the living creatures that inhabit or pass through the site within the color and form of the larger painting surface. Detailed renderings of seagulls, raccoons, hawks, and other animals are interspersed within the paintings.
These animals are far from endangered; in fact, they are thriving on our trash. My experience during the residency underlined for me the interconnected lives of humans and animals, and the impact our trash and desire to consume has on the natural environment. It also piqued my interest in the flip side of species loss—that of overly prolific and invasive species that are also contributing to our biodiversity crisis.
Residency: October 2014 - January 2015
Art Exhibition: Friday, January 23 & Saturday, January 24
Kara Maria's website