The call of the wild comes to Hell’s Kitchen as the Fountain House Gallery opens the group exhibit “Animal Crossing” starting tonight on 9th Avenue. 

Do Not Let Them Go Extinct! Maria Bronkema
Do Not Let Them Go Extinct! — Acrylic and collage on paper by Maria Bronkema

Hosting an opening reception from 6pm to 8pm Thursday evening and running through October 26, the Fountain House exhibition explores “conceptions of animality in the contexts of domesticity, wildness, and spirituality” through a series of works from artists including Maria Bronkema, Timothy Bronkema, Miguel Colón, Donna Faiella, Sally Fisher, Mario Fontenla, Kris Fox, Lita Goldberg, Kelly Han, Zeus Hope, Shelia Horne, Issa Ibrahim, Roger Jones, Kerry Kennedy, Ray Lopez, Debra Nevin, Anthony Newton, Aracelis Rivera, Rene Santiago, Barry Senft, Susan Spangenberg, Corey Streeter, Bradford Scott Stringfield, vermilion, and Boo Lynn Walsh and curated by Dr Giovanni Aloi and Maria Bronkema. 

“Animal Crossing aims to educate the public and encourage society to celebrate our planet’s diverse wildlife. From wild animals to domestic companions, relating to animals can be a humbling experience that helps generate empathy for oneself and for others,” said Aloi and Bronkema of the exhibit in a statement.

“As we learn more about each animal, we get an intimate glimpse of why we experience transference with them. An elephant might represent our aunt, a nurturer. The weasel is an amazing trickster – a hunter all year round. At home, we transfer feelings to our pets as they become our child, friend, and companion. All our intimate experiences are evident in our art of animals in the wild and from home that we choose to create and share.”

Red Panda Mario Fontenla
Red Panda — digital art by Mario Fontenla

“Animals intersect with us in multiple ways: culturally (symbolically through mascots, national flags, folklore), spiritually, and physically (animals in an urban environment, wildlife preserves, etc.),” they added. “How would you feel if this animal disappeared? Finding ways to preserve the ecological balance is an urgent call to action, and highlighting our special connection with animals will aid us in preserving them and the environment.”

An art historian based at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dr Aloi is also the editor of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. He is Co-editor of the Art after Nature book series at the University of Minnesota Press and US Correspondent for Esse Arts + Opinions magazine. Bronkem is a longtime Fountain House Gallery artist who conducts weekly “Animal Sketching” classes at Fountain House.

The Fountain House Gallery — an offshoot of the national mental health nonprofit Fountain House founded in 1948 — was created over two decades ago as a studio to support the careers of artists living with mental illness. Fountain House Gallery provides collaborative studio space for participating artists in Long Island City, promoting and selling their their work as well as connecting artists with cultural institutions and opportunities. The “Animal Crossing” exhibit is funded in part by support from the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the David Rockefeller Fund, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Commenting on individual works in the exhibition, Aloi added, “Miguel Colón’s Silent Conversation and Anthony Newton’s Who’s the Master? explore the complex relationships we establish with our pets – sometimes based on power and at other times on symbiosis. Pets define us in ways that may elude us and can be better grasped through art.” 

“The work of Sally Fisher and Shelia Horne considers the relationship between nature and culture through enigmatic images of urban realities in which animals appear to be either captive or making the most of the urban environment. The collage works of Maria Bronkema and Donna Faiella explore the construction of nature through the specific materiality of the medium. Across different media and stylistic approaches, the works in Animal Crossing invite us to rethink our relationship with animals beyond the simplistic representations of the past. Not always beautiful and awe-inspiring, the animals presented in this exhibition are important affective mediators in our relationship with reality,” he said. 

Monarch Watch, 2020 Sally Fisher
Monarch Watch — digital photo by Sally Fisher

Sounds like the perfect exhibit for the many pet parents of the West Side! 

The Fountain House Gallery is located at 702 9th Avenue on the corner of W48th Street. “Animal Crossing” opens Thursday September 15 and runs through October 26. 

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