Oil on Braced Baltic Birch 15” x 15” x 2” 2019
In medieval bestiaries and renaissance art, animals were endowed with moral symbolism. Apes and monkeys represented human carnal desires, and were often used as satirical depictions of man’s folly. While this may have unnecessarily denigrated the primates, it was meant to highlight the virtuous standards humans were held to. Regardless of whether one believes in the Imago Dei (the idea that humans have a moral nature by divine design) most people think humans should not adopt the predator-prey dynamic of the animal kingdom. Conversely, animals are not deemed morally culpable like we humans are.
The earliest universities can be traced back to Europe in the medieval ages, where the development of intellect, respectful debate, and formation of character were seen as essential. While I consider myself an academic with a great respect for academia, it seems to me that the great legacy of civil discourse in higher education is crumbling. The architecture for this painting originates from an historic university not far from my studio. A noted professor from another university was invited by a student group to speak on this campus. During his lecture he was drowned out by the yelling of opposing students and the blasting of their blow-horns in his ear to protest his presence in their ‘safe space’. This expression of tribalism resembles the social Darwinian philosophy of ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘might makes right’. In no way does it advance the pursuit of truth, which comes through academic virtues of reason, respect, and humility.
In my Streams in the Wasteland series I depict animals and nature reclaiming human civilizations as a sign of judgment for rejecting the Creator’s moral law. In line with this theme, I crafted a scene with two White-Handed Gibbons climbing the ivy-covered ‘ivory towers’. The setting sun metaphorically indicates the end of academia if civil discourse dies.