Journal Entry

13 June 2003 ... Animal Art

I was eager to get online this evening, because I had posted to a discussion over at Suite 101. The Art Exercise topic had an article on the art that animals make. ie, putting fingerpaint on dogs/cats feet and letting them walk across paper. The author considers this, not art by the animals, but art using animals as a tool. Method Art (another example of Method Art that he gives is sitting in a bus holding a pen to paper and letting the bouncings determine the lines).

Here's my response:

Yes, interesting and thought provoking article, joe.

Did you know that elephants in the wild pick up sticks and make markings in the dirt? Are they drawing and making art? Perhaps they are.

Dipping dogs' and cats' paws in fingerpaint and letting them walk across a canvas... hm, maybe the first few times they do this it could be considered Method Art, as you say. However, dogs and cats do learn. Does their behavior _Change_, once they notice their paws are leaving colored marks?? I think that this is the important question to ask when you are considering the paintings that animals create...

If the animals realize they are making marks, and their behavior indicates this realization, then you can no longer call them a "tool". They are making art and they are the artist.

Thanks for the article.

The author replied that his dogs show no aptitude towards art, his dogs tracking in mud (thus leaving marks) all the time. heh. And you know, while I've worked with dogs and cats in the past, I've never been a dog guardian. So, I might have to defer to his greater experience, and agree that dogs may not be capable of art.

But dogs are at the lower end of the intelligence scale. I do think that animals higher up are capable.

This topic really is fascinating to me.

I wonder if the guinea pigs would mind some experiments (even granting that they are lower than dogs on that intelligence scale... on the other hand, at least guinea pigs aren't color blind, they see the same colors we do). But then the thought of clean up inhibits me... even washable non-toxic finger paints are going to stain their white fur, I would think.

Off-site: Animal art for a Good cause.
Painting Paws

These paintings are so beautiful to me.

Can we grace the animal with the label of "Artist"?

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