'Chosen Blindness' strives to bring attention to trauma in animals

Exhibit ‘Chosen Blindness’ strives to bring attention to trauma in animals

A sculpture by Mark Dyke is part of the “Chosen Blindness” exhibit. (Courtesy of Albuquerque Contemporary Art Center)

With the cold temperature outside, maintaining your mental health is crucial, but have you ever considered an animal’s mental health?

The Albuquerque Contemporary Art Center, located at 301 Mountain Road NE, is presenting the exhibit “Chosen Blindness” through Jan. 28.

It is presented by Bestiary Collective – which is made up of Albuquerque-based artists and animal rights advocates David D’Agostino and Mark Dyke. The show is dedicated to animal suffering.

Together these artists combine bronze and clay sculptures, photo dioramas and sound art to showcase the trauma and demise of nonhuman species.

“I have never done a diorama and I’ve always wanted to,” D’Agostino said. “I have had this photo lightbox for years and then I thought I was gonna paint, because I am mostly a painter, so I am gonna paint distressed animals.”

D’Agostino met Dyke a few years ago and became interested in the amount of sheltered animals he and his wife cared for.

“My collaborator, Mark, creates these bronze, clay and wax sculptures and when I first met Mark, I saw some of his sculptures, and they really brought out the essence of these animals, but also were very empathetic,” D’Agostino said. “That is why he and I connected and so I thought, well, his animals combined with my real interest using the diorama as a way to communicate, this suffering could really be powerful.”

Unlike most bronze sculptors and photographers, Dyke and D’Agostino do not show animals in their over idealized form, rather they prefer to reveal their underlying trauma and resilience.

“What got me interested was one day I just came across this fish and wildlife handbook on how to document and so forth,” D’Agostino said. “So from that, an exhibit came out of that and that then led to an exhibit at the Open Space Center here that’s sponsored by the city of Albuquerque.”

After that, D’Agostino collaborated with the University of New Mexico.

“I worked with the UNM Museum of Southwest Biology and they allowed me to integrate these jars into a constructive exhibit that I made about communicating habitat loss,” D’Agostino said. “What I loved about that exhibit is that they brought in these really young kids around the first and second grade and they were so mesmerized more by what they saw in the jars.”

What sparked D’Agostino’s interest for revealing the trauma of nonhumans through art was how they reacted in stressful situations.

“I’ve always been attracted to – I don’t want to use the word deformity – that is used in the animal kingdom, not so much with humans,” D’Agostino said. “But I’m fascinated by how animals can suddenly become so affected by habitat loss and various sources of stress, so the interest really came from almost all of the paintings focusing on depression and anxiety and suicide and all of these mental, you know, things that affect us as human beings that we never consider, like maybe the animal kingdom also is affected by these.”

One thing that helped increase D’Agostino’s motivation for showcasing animals was a trip up north.

“The key thing for this particular exhibit was just going up to Duluth, Minnesota,” D’Agostino said. “I was visiting some friends and my family and I saw on the front page of the Duluth newspapers sitting in this coffee shop was freezing outside. And there’s a whole thing about brain worms and moose.”

Those that visit the exhibit can expect to learn about a plethora of issues affecting animals.

“Well, I would say that it really comes down to being aware of the causes of stresses that occur for animals, without making an overt political statement,” D’Agostino said. “Some of those are obvious. There is road and energy development here in New Mexico, there’s industrial sprawl, housing sprawl, so the loss of habitat capacity increase year after year, and so these animals have nowhere to live.”

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