Local artist shows work inspired by animal extinction

Local artist, Jody Miller Olcott, is showing her second solo exhibition at Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell Borough from November 6 to 28. The opening reception will be on Saturday, November 6 from 2 to 5pm. “Apotheosis,” the exhibition’s name, features diverse animal species that serve as beautiful messengers of a difficult reality — one where we find ourselves in one of the most explosive extinction episodes in history. 

Like “Requiem,” Olcott’s 2017 solo show at Morpeth that introduced this series, “Apotheosis” reveals extinct – recognizable by their gold halos – and critically-endangered animals. Olcott’s religion is nature, and her deification of these species is her very personal way of paying respect to them and bringing broader awareness to the plight of the animal kingdom.

Delving further into these animals’ stories, the show also reveals their protectors – from Saint Francis of Assisi to today’s scientists – and their original natural habitats. Connecting the animals from around the world is the thread of human actions determining their fate — in some cases, extinction; in others, successful breeding and repopulation.

Olcott begins by selecting the animals. This show includes the barbery lion (North Africa), the asiatique cheetah (Iran), the passenger pigeon (North America), and the harlequin frog (Costa Rica/Panama). She then departs from the tradition of Byzantine icons to create altarpiece-inspired environments, using salvaged wood from church organs, shipping molds, and discarded furniture. Some of the wood environments echo their inhabitants, such as the animal-footed table legs used to contain the cheetah, and some of the painted settings reveal features of the animals’ original home countries. 

Most striking, however, are the gold halos that signal these animals’ extinction, and the “lifelike” detail with which Olcott paints their distinct coats, feathers, poses, and faces.

What Olcott also captures in this series are the animals that conservation efforts are reintroducing to us. Such is the case with Guam kingfisher, for example, a once common bird on that island that found itself prey to a human-introduced invasive snake. It became extinct in the wild for 30 years but stands ready to be released back into the wild after intensive breeding efforts in the United States.

Throughout the show is a message to support ongoing efforts to protect animals, serve as stewards ourselves, and focus, as Henry Paulson puts it, “as much on the exquisite beauties of this earth as on its staggering losses.”

Morpeth Contemporary is located at 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ. For more information and artwork from the show, please visit www.morpethcontemporary.com/jody-olcott

More information about the featured photo:

Falkland Islands Wolf, 
When Charles Darwin first encountered the Falkland Wolf in 1833, he noted that the population was already in decline. He predicted that its extinction would be eminent with the arrival of permanent settlers to the Falkland Islands. He also claimed that the animal would be easy to kill by hunters due to its lack of fear of humans; it was the largest predator of its environment and thus did not need to fear anything short of another Falkland Wolf. Sadly, Darwin’s observations and predictions would later prove to be correct. As the number of visits to the islands increased during the 1800s, Falkland Wolf numbers began to noticeably dwindle, particularly with the arrival of fur traders from the United States in 1839. The final blow to this species came with the arrival of Scottish settlers in the 1860s. A huge poisoning campaign was launched due to an unfounded belief that the Falkland Wolves were a threat to livestock and the species was systematically eradicated. The last known Falkland Wolf died in 1876, just 43 years after Darwin’s arrival.
Oil and gold leaf on panel, found wood framing

Submitted by Morpeth Contemporary.

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