Monday, March 20, 2017

Highlights from Baren Exchange #71 (Two Critters)

I've been involved with the Baren Forum for Wood Block Printmaking for a few years now and participating in the quarterly exchanges since #62 (Fall of 2014.) This was my first time volunteering to be the coordinator. It was a lot of work, but such fun getting to see all the participants' work first. There were so many great prints in this exchange, I had been at a loss deciding which to highlight on my blog.

I've settled on these two images of critters with narrative titles, "Caught in the Act" by Kristine Alder and "Requiem of a Jailbird" by Monica Bright. At first glance they might appear simply as adorable illustrations, but there is some melancholy mixed in with the humor. Indeed, all of the humor stems from the creatures' cute factor. These are small and humble beings, moderately low on the food chain, always nervously scrounging for sustenance while keeping an eye out for predators.

Though one is a rodent and the other a small bird, they have a similar relationship with humans. They are our wild neighbors, and might delight or annoy us. They might end up in traps or mounted for scientific study. Both of these species are also common to our everyday experience, opposed to rare and endangered animals. But ultimately and easily, should any individual cross our paths, they are then at our mercy. It is this vulnerability that is emphasized not only by the titles' suggestions, but by the close cropping against walls or bars.

And while both of these depictions are rather cute, they are not excessively so. They hold the animal at a distance that more honestly reflects our relationship to them. These prints allow us to pause and take a moment to see these critters through a window where we can not only admire and sympathize, but also feel our own role in the scene and our profound separation from their experiences.

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