Artist Kathryn Eddy recalls the jolt she got when she first read Carol Adams’ seminal work, The Sexual Politics of Meat. “I had spent years working as an activist against domestic violence, racism, and animal abuse but had kept my art practice separate,” says the co-curator of The Art of the Animal which opened this weekend at The Animal Museum in Los Angeles. “After reading The Sexual Politics of Meat, my art practice shifted. Carol’s book showed me how all of this is connected through linked oppressions and inspired me to create work that examines the patriarchal power structure that perpetuates them.”
Adams’ work continues to inspire Eddy and was the catalyst for The Art of the Animal, a group show in which Eddy and 13 other women artists have transmuted Adams’ powerful treatise into images and installations. From Nava Atlas’ cheekily subversive revisioning of Elsie, Borden’ iconic dairy cow to Eddy’s own Pig Blindness sculptures, The Art of the Animal does what Adam’s seminal work does — it calls out the everyday oppression of women and animals that’s so much part of our culture, we’ve become blind to it. The Art of the Animal opens our eyes. And our minds.
“The work is visceral and some might say shocking,” says Eddy. The artists illustrate The Sexual Politics of Meat’s assertion that racism, misogyny and the way animals are mindlessly killed for consumption have at their root the same source — a male-dominated, meat-eating culture. It is not an easy show, it is not an easy subject. “Death and suffering are difficult subects for all of us,” says Adams. “I trust each artist to create the world they need to create in their art.”
The show — and the book of the same name —“walk the fine line between art and activism. We have to find that perfect and elusive space in the middle and that is not an easy place to find,” says Eddy. “If we err on the side of didactic, we end up with propaganda and our audience shuts down. If we lean toward ambiguous, no one gets the message. It is in this middle area, the push and pull between didactic and ambiguous, that the magic happens. “
Like the book which inspired it, The Art of the Animal “offers the opportunity to reframe how we’re experiencing the world,” says Adams. “Once someone experiences this shift in consciousness, there’s an excitement or energy that gets released — Now I get it, now I understand.” Ultimately, it is about empathy, a term that resonates with participating artist lynn mowson. It’s about bearing witness, attempting to understand and to share the feelings of a fellow creature.
Some of the show’s artists have long considered Adams’ book their lodestone. Others “were new to Carol’s theories,” says Eddy. “It has been fascinating to see how Carol’s ideas have worked their way into the lives and artwork of every participant. Each artist brings a different voice.”
Though they’re scattered geographically, one of the great pleasures both for Adams and the artists is their connection through a shared vision and passion. “We have so much to learn from each other,” says Adams. She’s gone to write numerous other works, from The Pornography of Meat to Never Too Late to Go Vegan (with Patti Breitman and Ginny Messina) but The Sexual Politics of Meat is the book that continues to galvanize— and provoke — just as it did when it was originally released in 1990. Initial public response, she recalls with a gentle laugh, was, “Ugh, this is crazy! We’re talking about radically changing our culture. Of course people are going to react strongly.”
That reaction is a step towards change. “I like to think of people as incubating these ideas,” says Adams. “Every time they eat a vegan meal, they’re incubating. We may not know our response to art until we see it.”
Art of the Animal agitprop artist or big-hearted cookbook author? Nava Atlas is both. She graciously offered this recipe, part of VegKitchen’s vegan food hack series, simple techniques and ideas for fast, easy vegan meals. This hack subverts the classic idea of pizza. You get the zesty bubbling tomato sauce, you get the (vegan) cheesy goo, but vegetables take the place of crust.
28-ounce jar marinara sauce (your favorite brand)
1 bag Daiya or other vegan mozzarella cheese shreds
One or more of these vegetables:
1 large baking potato per person
1 medium zucchini per person
1 or 2 portobello mushrooms per person
1 medium to large eggplant (each will be good for 3 or 4 servings)
Preheat the oven two 425° F.
Start easy prep on the vegetables as follows:
Eggplant: Simply cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds.
Zucchini: cut in half lengthwise.
Potatoes: Scrub and microwave until done until fairly tender. Cut the potato or potatoes in half lengthwise and mash the insides lightly with a fork.
Portobello mushrooms: Remove the stem and wipe the caps clean.
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper, and arrange your prepped eggplant, zucchini, and/or portobellos on them in a single layer. Put them in the oven as it’s heating up. If using potato, and have already baked or microwaved it, no further prebaking is needed.
Once the oven has reached 425° F, take the vegetables out and test to see if they’re done. Chances are, you’ll need to flip the eggplant and portobello, and give each a few more minutes. Don’t overbake them, because you’ll be baking further once you put the sauce and cheese on.
Once the vegetables are done but still firm, take them out of the oven and carefully spoon some marinara sauce over their surfaces (for zucchini, cut side up; for portobello, gill side up; for eggplant, either side). Follow with a sprinkling of vegan cheese shreds. Add a few toppings if you’d like — lightly steamed broccoli, wilted mushrooms, basil leaves, etc.
For potatoes that have been prepared as above, you can skip the last three paragraphs. Simply later on the marinara and vegan cheese shreds, and any other toppings you might like. Broccoli and/or mushrooms particularly well pizza potatoes.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is well melted. Remove from the oven and serve at once.
Serves 4 to 6.
More at soulfulvegan.com.
*From left to right, top row: Patricia Denys, Peep Show, Maria Lux, Monarchy, Hester Jones, Chicken Fillets, Yvette Watt, Untitled, Olaitan Valerie Callender-Scott, Fragments, L.A. Watson, Patent Pending, lynn mowson, boobscape
bottom row: Sunaura Taylor, Wildlife, Angela Singer, Tear, Janelle O’Rourke, veal calf wheelbarrow, Suzy González, Lolita Devoured, Kathryn Eddy, The Problematic Nature of Flames, Nava Atlas, Deconstructing Elsie #2, Renee Lauzon, Alter