I embarked on the State of the Union Series with my painting Florida, State of the Union, which I then used for a proposal for the RAREAir residency at Adams State University in Colorado. I recently completed that residency with an exhibition of the now 5 states completed at their Hatfield Gallery.
The project will eventually have paintings of all of the states with the positive images we associate with that state—state flag, state animal, slogan, images or events associated, and in bubbles, some of the shameful things that go on with the animals of that state.
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California, State of the Union
In bubbles I depict the hidden animals. In these bubbles I show animal activists trying to save a downed calf and arrested for Grand Larceny, the captive Orcas of SeaWorld, the transport trucks of pigs to the fancifully painted slaughterhouse, the fires of CA, the infant monkey deaths of monkeys used in animal experimentation at UCDavis, and the multiple deaths of racehorses at Santa Anita Raceway. These worlds float over the stylized images of California. Minnie Mouse holds the state flag with the bear as symbol, flag waving over the bear, the state animal, near the Hollywood sign.
Colorado, State of the Union
The images featured in the background are idealistic of Colorado with the mountains, hot air balloon, state flag and the state animal and bird. In the bubbles are things that go on in that state that are cruel to animals. Coyote killing contests, live pig testing, a “sanctuary” with animal acts, wrangling calves and elephant acts at a local circus make up the bubbles of Colorado. The word Colorado contains more iconic images of Colorado in the kitschy style of postcards helping to lure the viewer in.
Florida, State of the Union
The images Florida wants you to think of; Micky Mouse holding the state flag, a Florida beach with iconic alligator, and free dolphins, oranges with blossoms and palm trees, the state animal the panther, juxtapose In bubbles the exploited captive dolphin, an unnecessary bear hunt orphaning many cubs, the exposed abuse at Larson Dairy, the monkeys raised at Primate Products for experimentation, and manatees and fish as victims of Red Tide.
Iowa, State of the Union
In the Iowa painting, home to the Iowa Caucuses and the Iowa State Fair, the American Goldfinch is the state bird, corn crops and wind farms are abundant, and monarch butterflies rest on their journey north. In bubbles we look behind the scenes where dog racing continues, hunting preserves provide sport of the kill, many puppy mills exist despite violations. As a major pork production state the sad view of a young pig on his way to slaughter serves to encompass the many horrors of factory farming; pollution of waterways, mass extermination of pigs due to pandemic, gestation crates for sows, and pigs crammed into filthy conditions never to see daylight. A man is banned from the Iowa State Fair for life for reporting abuse of a pig by its owner. I am interested in showing the disparate events against the backdrop of an idyllic Iowa.
Louisiana, State of the Union
Louisiana’s state bird — pelican — flies freely next to a pelican victim of the BP oil spill, an alligator in the swamp where in the bubble crammed onto farms for their skins and meat or hunted as an exotic creature. Baby primates tested on at Tulane University, police dogs trained to attack — since slavery days these trained dogs harm or kill, the majority of targets are black, at Louisiana State live dogs tested on acquired from local animal shelter while Mike the Tiger lives in beautiful isolation as a living mascot. These are against the backdrop with state bear, flag, and exotic beauty of Mardi Gras, French Quarter, art in the 9th Ward and Louis Armstrong.
Massachusetts, State of the Union
Massachusetts, State of the Union contains idealistic and iconic images in the background. The Boston Terrier leaps over Fenway Park, a New England old windmill, Cape Cod imagery, while in the bubbles darker things occur in Massachusetts. In this painting there are lobsters boiled alive, mice tested on at Elm Hill, deer targeted at Blue Hills Reservation, shark killing tournaments, and beagles experimented on at Charles River Lab.
Minnesota, State of the Union
In the Minnesota painting, home to Charles Schultz and Peanuts, a town mayor that is a dog, state animals and flags are the fun backdrop to bubbles with an elephant in the circus, an animal model resource catalog where collars with tags were found hanging in the facility from the cats killed and sold, a buck who stars in a canned hunt, a factory farm of pigs pollutes the waterways, and animal testing violations are found at University of Minnesota Medical School. These unrelated events happen simultaneously, many behind closed doors.
New York, State of the Union
In bubbles the animals of New York suffer sometimes in plain sight. The collapsed horse carriage -an accident from being forced to work in heavy traffic, noise, and pollution, the chickens of Kapora, the religious ritual where they are swung until killed, and animals slaughtered in wet markets. Behind the scenes mink captive and killed for fur coats at Saks Fifth Avenue, the force fed ducks of Foie Gras, and the Marshall operation of disease bred dogs and pigs for animal testing. These animals float over New York’s well known landscapes with NYC, Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, the beaver state animal holding the state flag and images of Jones Beach, Rockefeller Center, Statue of Liberty, Fort Ticonderoga, a symbol of Rap, and 42nd street.
Pennsylvania, State of the Union
In bubbles the animals of Pennsylvania exist in their separate miseries. The collapsed horse, one of many who die for our entertainment at ParxRacing, a dairy cow abused beyond usual at Mason Dixon Farms—supplier of Land o Lakes, a bear languishes alone at Pymatuning Deer Park, rabbits tested on, left with broken limbs for weeks, then killed at U of Pittsburgh, many fish farms, where multitudes of fish exist their entire lives in tanks. These animals float over rolling hills and rivers, the home of Hershey’s, the Liberty Bell, Keith Haring and Mr. Rogers, the white tailed deer state animal, the ruffed grouse is state bird, hot air ballooning-with state flag, the horse and buggy of the Pennsylvania Dutch, river tubing and farms dot the landscape.
Rhode Island, State of the Union
Each state includes in the background imagery that state would like us to see. Here in Rhode Island ocean and sailing, kite flying on green hills, the state flag and the state Rhode Island Red. In bubbles are things that go on with animals that are troubling. In this RI painting there are victims of the exotic bird trade, Elephants subjected to cruel bullhook training at the zoo, cows captive in the dairy business, and the truth behind the cheery egg company name, Little Rhody, is factory farmed caged chickens- this bubble floating near the iconic happy state bird, the live animal testing on pigs that goes on at Alpert Medical Center at Brown University.
Texas, State of the Union
Against the backdrop of Texas Roadhouse, Cadillac Ranch, Prada installation, longhorn state animal and state flag, Yosemite Sam and the long road floats bubbles with targeted animals like dogs in Texas A&M U testing, exposed captive cows in mammoth feedlots, killing contests and children chasing and bagging—then roasting young pigs, and helicopter shooting families of feral pigs.
Vermont, State of the Union
Vermont is the home to Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont Teddy Bear, maple syrup, skiing, skating and fall colors, the Morgan Horse state animal, the Hermit Thrush state bird and the state flag making up the landscape. In this painting are bubbles of those animals behind the scenes or relegated to be forms of entertainment. A turkey farm with turkeys barely able to move, pony pulling contests where a pallet of concrete blocks is dragged by ponies or horses, a hunting culture, a ‘good news’ bubble where the killing contests of wolves, coyotes and more have been recently banned. A bubble showing the story of a dairy factory farm which pollutes the waterways, takes baby calves from mothers after birth to lives in calf huts, while mother cows rare tethered to milking machines in huge buildings with no sun. A pandemic this time the reason milk is then dumped due to surpluses.
Wisconsin, State of the Union
For the backdrop of Wisconsin are idealistic images; the Green Bay Packer Cheeseheads, The Dells with tour boat, lighthouse, flag, state animal badger and the robin—state bird, and the postcard logo ‘Wisconsin’ contains iconic images of the state, and a dairy farm of days gone by. In the bubbles are things that go on with the hidden animals. Thousands of mink dead from Covid19 in cruel mink farms, abuses beyond the usual of primates at University of Wisconsin’s National Primate Research Center, removed age limitations for hunters allow toddlers to hunt, wolf killing contests and the circus environment of dairy at CAFO’s where cows are cogs in a wheel, and beyond the buildings, toxic waste kills fish and pollutes waterways.
The complex relationship we have with animals is sometimes funny—but mostly disturbing. We cherish our animal companions but do our best to ignore the invisible animals used in food, entertainment, clothing and science. We've been deluded into thinking there are degrees of sentience. I create painted worlds to bring into focus the completely unequal experiences that animals have.
The placement of the animals in these paintings into unusual settings may at first appear funny or odd, but soon may have an ominous sense of foreboding or danger. Strangers in a strange land.
I see animals as spiritual beings. In these paintings the animals are otherworldly- far away from their miseries on earth. Some have come back to deliver a message. Animals that were loved on earth come back to comfort. Sainthood is bestowed upon those that have been sacrificed to the false gods of ignorance, greed and gluttony.
This series includes paintings that celebrate the beauty, humor and individuality that animals possess; lives unimpeded.
It’s an honor to have been asked to create these paintings for the Compassion Arts Ahimsa Award, highlighting the work of a person in the arts using their creativity to advocate for animals and as an instrument for deepening understanding and compassion for all.
Click on thumbnail images to see series.