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My Senior Independent Study Project will last the duration of my senior year and culminate in a gallery show in the spring. My concept is slowly taking shape, but I know it will change and develop as the year goes on. My current focus (which relies heavily on the Environmental Studies part of my education) is, broadly, Empathetic Engagement with Non-Human Animals, exploring our various relations to animals in regards to issues like human-caused extinction and farming. I might delve into animal companionship as well, but that comparison might prove a big too unweildy.

Right now I'm doing a lot of researching and reading and reading and reading so theres a lot of words buzzing around my head like cognitive dissonace and kinesthetic empathy and deontological ethics and hopefully that will all make sense to me eventually, but in the mean time I'm working on a piece that may or may not end up coming to fruition for my IS.

Concept art for the piece, which will feature a spherical flock of skeletal passenger pigeons. Passenger Pigeons used to number in the billions in North America until we hunted them to exctinction in the early 1900s. Think about that--billions of individuals wiped out by us in a matter of years.

This wood will become birds. It's really important to me (and to the project) that all the wood I'll be using is recycled or found wood.

Step one to making a bird skull is constructing a weird hammer (duh, right?). I attach the long part at the bottom to a carving rig which makes it easy to maneuver the wood and carve it from all angles.

After much carving, a little bird skull! This is my first prototype--I hope to make dozens of them.

I'm excited about this piece as well as the other vague concepts I have right now. There are a lot of bits and pieces floating around that are very slowly coming together.

This topic will be a challenge, but I feel committed to experimenting with how art can illicit a sense of empathy in a viewer. Empathy is a very power and very personal emotion. Realistically, I don't actually expect to achieve the goal of instilling empathy in anyone. It's impossible to control how a viewer will recieve art, but I can try my hardest to convey my intent as much as possible. 7 months for now we'll see how I did.
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September 2016


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