In some far part of the universe, ten thousand years from this noon, we may all confront creatures more vital than ourselves, more intelligent than ourselves, who will read in our eyes, one hopes, a similar signal. What we want at that moment is recognition. Acceptance. A welcoming into some universal sill. And once in, we would also hope, there is no killing club behind the door.
Susan Saladino, a painter and sculptor, is an artist whose career has taken a major shift in the last decade. No longer creating art for art’s sake, she has combined her passion for art and love for animals, employing her skill to express a concern for their welfare.
Her work is sure to offend certain Christians, as it is informed by readings from Jeffrey Masson (“When Elephants Weep”) and Matthew Scully (“Dominion”). More importantly, it is inspired by a profound love and respect for all living creatures.
An overview of the artist’s diverse work reveals a dedication to this singular theme. The viewer is asked to examine our existence with non-human animals. As a vehicle of both compassion and protest, her work does not confront us with brutal realities, but rather welcomes the viewer in with familiar images from history, though purposefully reconstructed.
“Susan’s ambitious canvases of The Madonna cradling domesticated animals explains them as expressions of compassion, and if one accepts Mary as the embodiment of that virtue, they are altogether convincing.” (from a New York Times review)
In the artist’s words,
“From the time of creation to the time of Christ, the Bible testifies to God’s love and concern for animal life. The scriptures tell a story of the human failure to fulfill the role that God assigned – the role of compassionate care giver for non human creatures.”
“Modern technology has moved us into an age where we have successful and superior alternatives to products and procedures that involve cruelty. Despite these alternatives, laboratories still subject the most sensitive and intelligent animals to brutal atrocities….. Despite the availability of natural plant hormones proven to be safer and equally as effective, some women still choose traditional animal estrogen; even with the understanding that by doing so thousands of adult and infant horses will be tortured and killed…..Synthetic fabrics are readily available as a compassionate alternative, but people still choose to strip the skin off living animals…..Even the circus, a place for innocent entertainment, has a bizarre backdrop of exploitation and cruelty…..For their entire lives, farm animals are contained in severely confined cages or metal crates unable to even turn around, never seeing the sun or breathing fresh air; only the toxic stench of their own excrement. Industrialized farming of today is an exploitation of the innocent. The heartbreaking reality of factory farming is the antithesis of what is projected in countless children’s storybooks and toys where we see happy faced farm animals frolicking in sun filled green pastures, well cared for and loved by farmer Brown. Anthropomorphizing animals illustrates to children the similarities between animals and humans with an underlying message encouraging love. The other message given to children is that it is acceptable to exploit and kill those very same creatures.”
“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature who cannot.”
“The absence of anger in the face of injustice is a crime far worse than any words or actions that might offend the public, and by doing so, wake those who sleepwalk through life.”
Images: Madonna and Moon Bear, Madonna and Chimpanzee, Madonna and Puppy Mill