As children play with animal toys, they displace the animals’ natural context, habitat, agency, and behaviors. With playthings, children are encouraged to enact fictitious narratives that rely on speciesism and anthropomorphized clichés, further divorcing animals from their natural realities and anatomies. While the word “toy” suggests diminutive size and concomitant diminution of importance, to “toy” with something means to mess with or manipulate. Because toys reflect and teach values of a society, child’s play forms animal perceptions and misconceptions that are perpetuated into adulthood. It is troubling that adults treat animals as toys—put where wherever, admired when in the mood, ignored when fixated on something else, and tossed out when outgrown. Ironically, as humans long for a wildness that is less and less present in daily life, artificial nature is brought into the home through (textile pattern, wallpaper, décor, toys, etc.). Clearly, humans value nature and animals but have lost touch with true experiences of the wilderness.
My work utilizes toys in intricate still lives, assemblages, and installation to create work that considers animal toys as playthings stripped of agency and reduced to toy features. Cut out paintings of animal images disassociate the organisms in their environment, leaving a void replaced by toys. Many paintings depict animal toys among domestic spaces and everyday objects that also evoke nature themes, such as intricate wallpapers, patterns, and décor. Use of collaged textile and text speak to the illusion of these items. Mixed media paintings invite viewers to question the human act of “toying” with animals as well as reflect on the complexity of humans’ artificial approach to replacing the lost wild.
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