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Posts Tagged ‘otters’

Art: John James Audubon.
“Lutra Canadensis, Canada Otter” (New York Public Library).

Hyperallergic is an online art magazine with a wide variety of stories that you just want to share. You can read it without paying, but of course, they need contributors as well as readers.

Today’s inspiration from Hyperallergic is about otters.

Sarah Rose Sharp writes, “Though seals are probably the gateway to aquatic mammal fandom, connoisseurs of the genre all agree that otters are best in class. These furry powerhouses are not only capable of tender intimacy and novel tool usage, they often just seem to be having the best time ever. So it’s no wonder that they have been a recurring motif throughout art history. …

“Though better known for his bird illustrations, John James Audubon’s last major work was The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, produced in collaboration with his friend, the Reverend John Bachman, who wrote the text that accompanies his illustrations. On his final drawing expedition in 1843, Audubon traveled with his son up the Missouri River to document and depict the four-legged mammals of North America — including, of course, otters.

“But the love of these little water scamps goes back much further than a couple of centuries. On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is just one example of otters as a common motif during the Late Period and Ptolemaic times.

“ ‘The pose of raised paws signifies the otter’s adoration of the sun god when he rises in the morning,’ reads the label on this Ancient Egyptian bronze statuette, dating to between 664 and 30 BCE.

‘In myth otters were attached to the goddess Wadjet of Lower Egypt, whose cult was centered in Buto, in the northern Delta.’ …

“For high otter drama, you can hardly do better than the standoff in Pieter Boel’s painting ‘Otter Harassed by Dogs‘ (c. 1600) currently in the collection of El Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. … Otters could mess you up at any time, so try to stay on their good side.

“Obviously, otters are a common motif in ancient and contemporary animal fetish carvings, such as [one] example of an ‘otter toy‘ from Cape Prince Of Wales, Alaska, part of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History collection. According to the Toh-Atin Gallery, otters as a fetish animal represent ‘balanced femininity.’ …

“For the painfully literal seeking out otters in museum collections, nothing can hold a candle to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, whose permanent River Otter installation and background mural in the Hall of North American Mammals was captured by AMNH photographer Denis Finnin. ‘As morning mist veils a lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, a young female river otter comes ashore and inspects a spider web,’ reads the AMNH image description. …

“Speaking of meditative otters, a beautiful painting on silk from the Meiji period, the work of Japanese artist Seki Shūkō, is sure to meet all your needs for minimalist marine mammals. You can practically hear the noise of the rushing river. …

“But otters need not only be social animals, they can also be voices for animal welfare, as a woodcut by South Korean artist Shumu demonstrates.

“ ‘Animals are different from humans in language and appearance,’ the artist said in a message to Hyperallergic. ‘But animals feel the same or similar pain as humans, and they have emotions. Species discrimination against animals must stop. I hope that by continuing to work and share the life of veganism, it can become a small but resonant message.’ “

Nice examples of otter art through the ages at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall. Do you have favorite otter stories or images? Please share them.

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