NYC Parks will present Closely Knit: A Textile Analysis of Animals, an exhibition of work by artist Ruth Marshall. Her textile pieces, which are inspired by animal pelts from the American Museum of Natural History and live animals in zoos, bring attention to illegal wildlife trade and species loss in a way that unites a widened audience of scientists, art enthusiasts and the general public. Closely Knit is on view in the Arsenal Gallery now through June 20, 2014.
Ruth Marshall's artwork reproduces and interprets full-size animal pelts as knitted textiles. She has conducted research from pelt collections at the American Museum of Natural History and the Melbourne Museum, as well as from captive live animals at the Berlin Zoo. Each of her one-of-a-kind textiles represents an individual animal she spends months researching and recreating. For Closely Knit, Marshall studied Askai, Central Park Zoo's male snow leopard, and created a new knitted work measuring 91" by 60" based on his grey, white and black coat that would help him blend into his snowy and rocky surroundings. Her work allows visitors to expierence the immense scale of the large endangered cats, as well as appreciate their intricate, beautiful characteristics up close without jeopardizing the animals.
Ruth Marshall's textile pelts of tigers, leopards, coral snakes and Australian marsupials exemplify how artisan goods have the potential to have higher commercial value than poached skins on the black market. The result would be a paradigm shift in the incentive behind wildlife trade, which is one of the largest illegal activities in the world. Her textiles reinforce the ideology that support for conservation and culture is a more sustainable, viable and lucrative endeavor than illegal wildlife trafficking.
"Unsettling is one reaction that suits the world my work intends to reflect. We should all feel uneasy about the state of wild animals. Artists create for different reasons...I see a need to be constantly reminded of humanity and the role I play in it. I want to share stories that are personal, meaningful and important to our past, present and future. From living animals to drawers in museums, I research individual lives to explore life," said Marshall.
The exhibition is staged in the historic Arsenal building, which housed both the menagerie that predated the zoo and the American Museum of Natural History. Beginning in 1859, a burgeoning menagerie was located in and around the Arsenal. Gifts or loans of animals by the likes of impresario P. T. Barnum, financier August Belmont and Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman could be seen in outdoor cages and in the basement of the building. The "great insecurity and danger" of this arrangement, as well as the stench, resulted in the removal of the interior cages by 1871. The Arsenal was also the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, which displayed its collections in the building from 1869 to 1877 before it moved to its current home on Manhattan's West Side.
Ruth Marshall received a BFA in sculpture and printmaking at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Marshall was awarded the Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where she graduated with her MFA in 1995. Working at the Bronx Zoo from 1995-2009, home of the Wildlife Conservation Society, influenced Marshall deeply. Since then she has became internationally known for her hand knit pelts of exotic animals endangered by the illegal skin trade. A native of Australia, Marshall currently resides in New York City and teaches as an adjunct professor part time at the School of Visual Arts.
A series of related programs will be offered at the Arsenal Gallery in conjunction with Closely Knit: A Textile Analysis of Animals. Admission is free but seating is limited. To RSVP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 15, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Lecture with Neil Duncan, Collections Manager, Mammalogy and Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History
May 21, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Artist Talk with Ruth Marshall
June 16, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Lecture with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. John Polisar, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Jaguar Conservation Program