Artist's Statement ("We Are All Animals" exhibit)
The art in this show gives voice to the billions of animals who live, suffer and die in factory farms and laboratories, and the wild animals whose world is being stolen by habitat destruction, overconsumption and poaching.
We are trained from an early age to believe that the Earth and animals were put here expressly for our use. Even non-religious people believe that humans are the pinnacle of creation. This mindset enables us to justify our horrendous treatment of non-human animals.
We slaughter approximately 10.2 billion land animals for food in the U.S. alone each year. These animals have lives and families that are important to them, yet most humans consume animalsí bodies without thinking about the individuals being eaten, and about the suffering those individuals have endured. Industrial agribusiness has profit as its motivation, so the animals that produce meat, milk and eggs are treated like objects, not living, feeling creatures. And, there are no laws to protect farmed animals from abuse. Marketing slogans aside, there is no such thing as humane slaughter.
With over 7 billion humans on the planet, the question of how to feed that many humans is a dire one. Most grain and soy is fed to farmed animals while millions of people in third world countries starve, making animal agriculture incredibly inefficient for feeding our ever-growing human population. Not to mention the fact that animal agriculture is the biggest single contributor to global warming, per the United Nations.
This body of work represents my attempt to nudge the viewer to ponder the darker realities of how we get our food, realities which our society sweeps under the rug.
Artist's Statement (Environmental surrealism and Religious Animal Art)
My art fuses my love for animals, concern about the welfare of the planet and twisted sense of humor. I call my work "environmental surrealism". Influences include kitschy portrayals of animals from mass-marketed popular culture, the nightmarish imagery of Hieronymus Bosch, Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, the writings of Edward Abbey, and my work as a wildlife rehabilitator.
My "religious animals" paintings are a reaction to the ubiquitous fundamentalist religion in America as well as the idea propounded by most organized religions that animals have no souls. Some of my animal characters have founded their own religion, complete with nuns, popes and televangelists. My environmentally-themed paintings feature naughty animals having fun turning our superiority on its head by demolishing industrial objects. Grizzly bears with jackhammers "restoring" a freeway, a mountain lion with an acetylene torch decommissioning a bulldozer, arctic wildlife laying waste to a Hummer dealership and animals tearing down billboards for housing developments are some of the characters who populate my paintings.
I also enjoy the disquieting effect of combining body parts from different species. As someone who works with small animals I often ponder the evolutionary process - why creatures look the way they do. Questions as what a bird would like with a squirrel or rabbit head pass through my mind. The hybrid animal paintings are a way for me to indulge these curiosities where no one gets hurt.
Michelle Waters was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, into an artistic, progressive activist family. She has been making art since she was a small child, and holds a B.A. in Studio Art from University of California, Santa Cruz.
Her art expresses concerns for the loss of the natural world and human exploitation of animals. Ms. Waters is a committed ethical vegan and has been an animal liberation and environmental activist for 30 years. Her art has also been influenced by her work as a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator.
She has shown her art widely in the U.S., including in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Seattle, Portland, and New York. Ms. Waters paints at home in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, an area that still has wildlife and is a source of great inspiration. When not painting she works as a web designer and caters to every whim of her rescued feline family.