Posted on: August 1, 2013
Animal Crackers is a fun and fanciful exhibit on display at the Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) that celebrates animals from around the world in art by local and national artists, both human and animal.
On a recent visit to the TCA gallery, I was immediately charmed by the group of paintings created by several animal artists who have resided at the Phoenix Zoo, including Ruby the elephant. Ruby loved to paint and paint she did for 20 years, achieving much world-wide fame for herself and the Phoenix Zoo. Judging from the animal art on the TCA’s walls, Ruby may have inspired other members of the Phoenix Zoo’s residents to pick up a paint brush or just plunge in paws or hooves first and give it a go. Among the works on the walls are some fine examples of minimalism and abstract expressionism by an ocelot, squirrel monkeys, black footed ferrets, a big horn sheep, an Andean bear and Duchess, the zoo’s beloved orangutan who passed away in 2012.
There are also many fine works by human artists. I was completely taken by Jasen Evoy’s sculptures that are whimsical and funny with a touch of irony. I loved Shrimp Cocktail, which is a large shrimp lounging and holding a martini glass. Then there’s Conflict of Interest which shows a zebra patient lying on the psychiatrist’s couch, while his psychiatrist, a lion takes notes. His pieces are sprinkled throughout the gallery.
I was drawn to Anne Coe’s big vibrant paintings, reminiscent of illustrations in children’s books, Dick George’s stunning black and white photographs and Christy Puetz’s Mind Forest. The latter looks something like a large diorama and depicts various animals from around the world in their living environments.
Other artists whose animal imagery is on display include Barbara Burton, Jeff Falk, Dick George, Christopher Jagmin, Luis Jimenez, Carolyn Lavender, Joe Ray, Jane Rosen and Lauren Strohacker.
The exhibit also has a fun interactive section. I’m a real sucker for pet photos and crazy YouTube videos of pets, so I got a big kick out of the Pet Wall of Fame. It’s a collage of pets and zoo animals just being their wonderful selves. Next to the Pet Wall of Fame is a display inviting visitors to design a new toy for a Phoenix zoo animal.
The TCA is also hosting a series of animal-themed Walk-in Family Workshops with local artists and Phoenix Zoo staff on Saturdays at noon through August 17. They’re free and, as the title suggests, reservations aren’t needed. Just drop by and create a piece to take home. In a recent workshop lead by artist Barbara Burton, children made larger than life stick puppets using templates designed by Barbara. There were plenty of art supplies to allow creativity to run wild. See the TCA Event Calendar for future workshop details.
Animal Crackers is a wonderful exhibit for all family members and anyone who loves animals. The exhibit and workshops offer a cool summer activities and a quality art experience for kids and animal lovers of all ages.
Animal Crackers will be on display through September 7. The TCA Gallery is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.
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