Dominion: Portraits of Animals in Captivity
Like many people, I grew up with a fascination for animals. Storybooks, cartoons, puppet shows; our culture fosters the whimsical fantasy that animals are our friends. The truth is much darker. Animals are commodities that we use for food, clothing, labor, and entertainment. The Old Testament gave man a pretext for using animals to suit his needs. Modern civilization developed in ways to shield us from the cruelty and neglect with which we treat our fellow creatures. Today, attitudes are changing, due in large part to the long campaign of animal welfare groups that have worked to expose and question our exploitation of animals.
In each of my images, an animal has been removed from its natural environment and placed in a human space where it does not belong. The longing to be elsewhere is clear from the animal's confinement and expression. Faded murals allude to a history of domestication and the way we can often fool ourselves into thinking of animals as extensions of our own needs and emotions. These animals are not at home here. Nonetheless, there is a disturbing beauty in their isolation.
Darkness, destruction, cataclysm; the visual narrative of Reckoning depicts tornadoes, floods, storms, fire, and melting glaciers, all of which are increasing in frequency as our climate warms. Deeper down, these scenes are also meant as a metaphor for a civilization in crisis.
In addition to these scenes of disaster are photographs that show decaying structures and dying trees, as well as some that provide the hope of shelter and protection against these threats. Those images portray the beauty of nature, however ominous, to introduce the idea that there are still places where one can remain safe in the face calamity. I feel an emotional need to make this work as an expression of my anxiety about worldwide political, cultural, and environmental shifts, and the way in which our society seems to be unraveling, slowly but steadily, as the bar of civility drops.
Many of us were raised with this idea that if you do bad things you will be punished. It’s a way of teaching us to follow the rules of society and comport ourselves with civility. Recently, though, I’ve wondered if there might be a critical mass of people who don’t believe this at all; who instead feel they can do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect them, regardless of the consequences their actions might have for others. The title Reckoning comes from the notion that, at some point, we will have to pay a price for what we have done.
Carol Erb is a Los Angeles based artist who studied painting and drawing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with a BA from DePaul University. In 2013, the artist began using Photoshop to create constructed and staged realities using her own photographic material.
A 2017 Critical Mass Top 50, and 2016 Critical Mass Finalist, Carol was invited to Review Santa Fe. Her images have appeared in numerous exhibits at The Center for Fine Art Photography, Houston Center for Photography, Phoenix Art Museum, Photo Place Gallery, Vermont Center for Photography, and A. Smith Gallery. The artist’s work has been featured in Rfoto Folio, Square Magazine, BETA – Developments in Photography, Lenscratch, Adobe Create, and A Photo Editor.
Click on any of the thumbnail images to launch the viewer. You can then navigate forward and backward within the portfolio by clicking the left or right side of the enlarged image. Click the add to collection checkbox to automatically add an image to your collection. Image tags or search engine keywords appear below the collections' checkbox and each word or phrase is a link to potentially more image matches.