The rabbit is a curious animal, inspiring seemingly endless paradoxical associations. It is a crop-damaging nuisance and a good luck charm – a wily trickster and a “harebrained” fool. It manages to be both innocent and sexually profligate – a playful character in children’s stories and a powerful archetype in ancient myth. Finally, the rabbit functions as a domesticated source for food or fur and a beloved family pet. These contradictory interpretations are the inspiration for the works in this show. I examine the roles of hares, rabbits, and bunnies through different media and techniques based on these attributes.
Hares and rabbits are not the same species. They are in the same family but unlike rabbits they live above ground and their offspring are born more fully grown. The hare relies on camouflage and speed to avoid predators as well as rapid reproduction for success of the species.
With these traits in mind, I selected the medium of relief printmaking. It is an ideal way to present the wild hare in its natural environment. The linocut marks depict an animal indistinguishable from its environment and as seen, most likely by the predator, in black and white. The hare looms large in these portraits rather than just specs in a field. And, they seem to be holding still for just a moment before zipping away.
Rabbits invoke fertility, spring, and the inevitable cycle of life and death. These oil paintings on panel are influenced by 17th century Dutch still-lives. Here, I present the rabbit as game, as meat, as food – as something to be consumed. The inclusion of cut flowers completes the vanitas and/or memento mori theme of life’s fleeting pleasures.
I continue with the theme of consumption and mortality by depicting the garish custom prevalent in both eastern and western cultures of carrying a rabbit’s foot for luck.
Selective breeding of domesticated animals has always interested me. Size, color, temperament, and strength are all assigned arbitrary value. Nowhere is this more evident than Angora “Show Bunnies.” The Angora breed is presumed to have originated in Turkey and then been brought to France in the 1700s where it became popular as a pet for the decadent and for the wool harvested from its fur. Today’s breeders spend endless hours grooming these impossibly fluffy and docile animals. The prize rabbits exhibited here are painted on an exaggerated scale to highlight the absurd luxuriousness but without taking liberties with their actual appearance.