Friday, February 12, 2016

"Silverbacks" by Jeff White

Image used with the permission of the artist. Jeff White is a publisher and project facilitator at Totemic17. Check out his website to learn more, and fellow printmakers check out this Open Call for Artists.

I am not big into celebrating Valentines Day or Presidents Day, but I do enjoy celebrating another holiday that happens every February 12: Darwin Day.

In college I first saw the satirical cartoons from naysayers of the Theory of Evolution, depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (See below.) I remember thinking, Why is this an insult? Apes are beautiful, intelligent creatures. At the time I was still ignorant to how apes had been largely regarded by those in Western civilization as exhibiting all that is disgraceful about humankind.

Looking at apes as a kid, I thought it was obvious from appearances that we're closely related. I have an encounter burned into my memory of a gorilla at a zoo placing his hand on the glass enclosure that separated us, and being utterly struck by the similarities between his hand and mine.

My graduating exhibition at Ohio State University was titled "In Search of Ourselves." My major had been fine art, but I minored in physical anthropology and was fascinated by human evolution. Many of my paintings and prints at the time depicted great apes in a manner similar to this woodcut by Jeff White. In other words, images that sought to get across the emotional and social complexity of our closest cousins. I revisited this concept more recently with the first entry in Cats A-Z: All Ball.

In our correspondence, Jeff mentioned, "I don't know that I'd ever choose a kozo with mango leaf inclusions for anything else but I liked it with these gorillas!" I like it, too. There's something about how the leaves obscure and interrupt parts of the image of these two holding each other close. The scene is is already closely cropped, giving us only this moment of intimacy and affection, and even that seems to disintegrate a bit along the edges in a bustle of gouges and grain.

I feel something important, but not well-enough understood, is slipping away right before my eyes.

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