Karen Bondarchuk, a Canadian visual artist living and working in the United States, employs a broad range of materials and processes in her work. She has exhibited widely in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, France, Italy and India, and has completed residencies at the Moulin a Nef in Auvillar, France, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center and Ragdale Foundation. Her work has received honors and awards in New York, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois and Maryland and is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Woodson Art Museum and several other public and private collections. She has been named the 2016 Master Artist at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI. Bondarchuk received her MFA in sculpture from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and her BFA in sculpture and video from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax, Canada. She is an associate professor and foundation area coordinator in the Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.
Catch of the Day
Bred in the Bone #9: Horse Sense
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The Unbearable Lightness of Being
“Do we really understand the universe better than animals do?”
--The Lives of Animals, J.M. Coetzee
Our relationship with what we refer to as “the wild” is an odd one. Humans go to great lengths to arrogate superiority over the animal world, often citing language as the great civilizing divide. Our intellectual history is rife with philosophies about the inferiority of non-humans, in fact: Descartes famously referred to all animals as “automatons” while Kant and Aquinas denied moral status to animals. And yet recent research has clearly established that many non-human creatures not only exhibit behavior that implies a sense of moral code, but, in the words of animal rights activist Tom Regan,
want and prefer things, believe and feel things, recall and expect things. And all these dimensions of our life, including our pleasure and pain, our enjoyment and suffering, our satisfaction and frustration, our continued existence or our untimely death—all make a difference to the quality of our life as lived, as experienced, by us as individuals. As the same is true of … animals … they too must be viewed as the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own.
The employment of animals in my work is a means for me to explore the territory between humans and non-humans, and a way to (often humorously) put myself in the skin (or feathers) of another. I try to evoke a sense of the intricacies of human and animal relations, and stir a sense of empathy, particularly given the extent to which humans have come to dictate the terms of co-existence. These creatures often exist only at the periphery of our world, highlighting the reality that sustainability plays out under human direction, with our constraints imposed on them, although it is a pan-species ecological issue. I’ve often been struck by the hurdles that non-human species must face in order to survive; in this, I typically find myself squarely in the cheering section for the underdog.
Even if we believe we understand the universe better than animals do, have we not a moral obligation to act as responsible stewards to our non-human kin?