For centuries, artists have depicted the diverse and intimate nature of humans’ relationship to animals. Wild and domestic beasts have served as deities and food sources; as objects of ornament or sacrifice; as companion or curiosity. Works from the Williams College Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collection explore the representation of animals in art and artifacts across time and across the globe. RAWR! A WCMA Bestiary is on view at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) from February 1 through September 23, 2018.
At a moment when species are dying off at an alarming pace, RAWR! considers how art has helped to create arbitrary distinctions between the human and the animal. Artists—both consciously and inadvertently—provide insight into the inner lives of animals, and interrogate our ethical responsibilities to other species and to ourselves.
RAWR! is presented in conjunction with Philosophy 216: The Philosophy of Animals taught by Professor Joseph Cruz. The course will use the works of art in the exhibition in their philosophical inquiries into animal cognition, empathy and evolution, language in non-human animals, cross-cultural views on animals, and animal rights.
Themes within the exhibition show the range of human and animal relationships including; ritualistic, domestication, consumption, and imaginative. In ancient Egypt, ibises, large wading birds, were representative of Thoth, the god of knowledge. They were considered sacred and bronze statues or mummified birds were used in ritual votive offerings. Animals have long sparked the human imagination. They are given human traits or even fantastical powers as in Marc Chagall’s, The Flying Cow, depicting a man lying on the ground as a cow leaps across the night sky.
“Rawr! demonstrates the prolonged engagement of artists and artisans with animal subjects as well as the depth and range of WCMA’s collections. There are a approximately 3,000 years of human creativity on display, from an ancient Egyptian Ibex to a masterful 17th-century still life by Jan Weenix to a whimsical “cat accident” by Paul Klee and Andy Warhol’s famous cow. By placing wildly different kinds of objects in conversation, we explore animal imagery within contexts both playful and of serious consequence for humankind.” says Kevin Murphy, WCMA’s Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of American Art.
Thursday, Feb 15, 5 pm
Raise a glass to our spring exhibitions: The Seeds of Divinity, Rawr!, Sam Gilliam In Dialogue, and Object Lab.
Tuesday, Feb 20, 4 pm
Professor of Philosophy Joseph Cruz and Curator Kevin Murphy contemplate humans’ philosophical, cognitive, and artistic relationship to animals.