The Carnegie Center for Art and History presents “Biophilia Life; or, My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail,” a group exhibition featuring work by prominent local and national artists who explore the unique connection between humankind and domesticated animals.
The exhibition opens Friday, Dec. 14, with a special members-only curator’s talk with the artists at 5:30 p.m, followed by a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The works will be on view through Feb. 9.
The title, “Biophilia Life,” is a reference to the “biophilia hypothesis.” Popularized by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book “Biophilia,” Wilson describes an “urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” With the prefix “bio-” (which means “life”), and the suffix “-philia” (which means “love”), the term literally means, “love of life or living systems.” The second title of the exhibit My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail is a nod to the fun, approachable nature of experiencing this exhibition.
Artists have explored the relationship between humankind and animals for tens of thousands of years. Aside from children, pets may elicit the strongest feelings of love and attraction in humans. This human/animal bond is older than recorded history — the domestication of the dog and cats date back tens of thousands of years. In the last two centuries, innovations in pet care, like flea and tick products and kitty litter, brought an influx of animals sharing close, personal spaces with people in homes, elevating their status to family members for many. Today, more than 62 percent of households in the U.S. own personal pets.
Anyone who has a pet knows how special they are. It is undeniable that they make a positive impact on health and happiness — serving as an excuse to get out and exercise, providing companionship, or easing anxiety as therapy animals. The works created by the artists in this exhibition celebrate the symbiotic, emotional, and biological bonds between people and their pets.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Rachael Banks (Covington, Ky., and Louisville) is an assistant professor of photography at Northern Kentucky University in Covington. She received an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University (Denton, Texas) and has exhibited her photographs regionally, nationally, and internationally. Banks’ work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Rachael is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting.
Malcolm Bucknall (Austin, Texas) was born in Twickenham, England, in 1935, and studied art at the Ashram of Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan, India; Chelsea Art School, London; the University of Texas (BFA); and the University of Washington (MFA). He began his career as an artist in 1963 and maintains gallery affiliations in New York City, Seattle, New Orleans, Taos, Austin, Dallas, and Houston. He has received numerous national honors and awards including a major NEA fellowship (1985–1986) and inclusion in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. His work gained prominence in the 1990s when his paintings were used on multiple album covers by rock bands Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard and for the Lollapalooza music festival. His work most often depicts human/animal hybrid protagonists in settings influenced by such artists as John James Audubon, Rembrandt, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Elizabethan art and fashion.
Timothy Callaghan (Cleveland) is a painter who lives and works in Cleveland. He received an MFA from Kent State in 2005 and a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art in 1999. Callaghan is a nationally exhibited artist, and has work included in many collections, including The Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Art Association. He is also the author of the book One Painting A Day, a 6-week course in observational painting and creating extraordinary paintings from everyday experiences.
Gaela Erwin (Louisville) earned a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design (1973) and an MA at the University of Louisville. Erwin has exhibited internationally, and her work has been included in exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, London, England; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Speed Art Museum, Louisville.
Carlos Gamez de Francisco (Chicago), born in Holguin, Cuba, is a multi-discipline artist proficient in drawing, painting, photography, fashion, and filmmaking. He lived in Louisville for a number of years before moving to Chicago, where he completed a degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work can be found in the collections of the Evansville Museum, 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville Metro Hall, and the Fashion Resource Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sonya Yong James (Atlanta) is an Atlanta-based multidisciplinary artist who works with fiber and other natural materials to create sculptural and installation-based artwork. She received a BFA degree from Georgia State University in Printmaking (2000). She has recently exhibited her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul; and the Art Institute of Atlanta.
Douglas Miller (Louisville) is a Louisville-based artist whose drawings are exhibited regionally and in galleries across the United States. He earned both his BFA and MFA degrees from the University of Louisville’s Hite Art Institute. His work is included in the collections of the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, the University of Louisville, the Speed School of Engineering, and numerous private collections.
William Wegman (New York) was born in 1943 in Holyoke, Mass. He received a BFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (1965) and an MFA in painting from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana (1967). Wegman is most famous for his series of photographs that use his beloved Weimaraners as models, a collaboration that began in the 1970s with his first dog, Man Ray. Those collaborations grew into multiple children’s and adult books, film and video works for Saturday Night Live, Nickelodeon, and Sesame Street, and appearances on late night television shows The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. Wegman has had numerous retrospective exhibitions in museums throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.