I am interested in the areas of gray morality associated with conservation science. This science focuses on the protection of biological diversity primarily through the protection of species and their environments, and the management of human impact upon these.
This interest was sparked by personal explorations in scientific illustration and the field of conservation. The scientific observations and dynamic illustrations of John James Audubon led to my focus specifically on birds.
Similarly vital in realizing this interest were initial studies of motion I created through animation. Animated studies of motion, as fabrications of life, evolved into an interest of how we study living things.
For education, we capture, kill, and display. Opportunities for education come at a cost. For conservation, we remove, relocate, reintroduce, and remodel. Conservation science can be successful in the preservation of biological diversity, but we cannot forget the costs of our successes and failures.
In my art, I hope to bring the gray morality of conservation science to light.
Earlier works of animation embodied methods of conservation through artistic processes. Animation captures life through the display of the dead. In essence, animation is a rapid display of still images. These images, drawn from life, capture and still the motion of an organism, in a sense killing it. This “dead” creature is later displayed as the animation, an imitation of something alive.
My recent work is concerned with presenting specific stories in the study and conservation of animals. The results of current and past stories are presented physically and literally, making them impossible to ignore. Previous pieces were metaphorical in nature and were often overlooked. There is something about physically witnessing a representation of a creature that gives it more life, makes it more real.
I want to bring forth stories that many people are unaware of, to show that there are costs to our knowledge. Gray morality is prominent within the scientific fields. I want to present this morality as alarming, but neither right nor wrong. Without taking either side on these issues, I want others to form their own opinions on the costs of success in studying and conserving the natural world.
Whitlock, Avery, "Explorations in the Gray Morality of Conservation" (2015). Art Honors Papers. 17.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.