Ken Heyman, Hip Shot: Dog in Sunglasses in front of beauty supply shop, c.1985. Silver gelatin print. Sheet: 14 x 11 in. Image: 12 3/4 x 8 3/4 in.
Animals, both wild and domesticated, surround humanity at almost all times. Some of the earliest known art—cave paintings from roughly 65,000 years ago—depict animals and subsequently infer our relationship to them. Artists throughout time have often turned to pets, livestock, service animals, and wild beasts as models, finding inspiration in both their familiarity and alien nature. These creatures offer anatomical studies of tails, wings, trunks, horns, and fur. They give us a view into the worlds uninhabited by humanity. Quite often they stand in for humans, personifying emotions and human social roles in ways that allow us to be more comfortable with the unforgiving way we frequently treat them. The Elephant in the Room recognizes that animals are not human, regardless of how we capture them in art, but offer endless insight into the human condition.
(Photo courtesy of Rich Sanders, Des Moines.)