jessica laniewski | September 30, 2013 | Lifestyle
Noppakhao #087, 2012, created by Asian elephant Plai Noppakhao.
The Peabody Essex Museum spotlights the connection between humans and animals with a new exhibition in its redesigned Art & Nature Center, the Dodge wing, which opens to the public on October 19. The space features new exhibition rooms, art studios, and family-friendly educational activities, and its $30 million renovation is the first completed part of the $650 million Advancement Campaign started in 2011 to expand the museum. In the center’s debut exhibition, “Beyond Human: Artist–Animal Collaborations,” 18 contemporary artists will display 37 works of art, including several of William Wegman’s iconic dog photographs and paintings created by elephants.
“Within the featured artworks in ‘Beyond Human,’ animals have served as inspiration, cocreators, models, and unique art tools,” says PEM’s Jane Winchell, who curated the show. “These creative investigations offer an opportunity to see animals in a new light and to consider that our interconnections with other species are dynamic and evolving.” The paintings created by the elephants, like the one pictured above, are part of the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project, started in 1998 by Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, who trained the endangered animals by using positive reinforcement, and then collaborated on the pieces with them. The not-for-profit organization began in Thailand as a way to help elephants in captivity stay mentally active. In the painting above, Asian elephant Plai Noppakhao was gently instructed by his caregiver where to apply the paint. For the more abstract paintings created by these animals, they were given a brush full of paint and allowed to apply it at their own discretion. Through September 7, 2014. Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500.
photography courtesy of the asian elephant art & conservation project