The capitals of Europe and Asia are safe from thundering herds of pachyderms; it’s only their representatives that have been storming two major continents. Indeed, one of the reasons for the faux-elephant invasion is that the majestic animals themselves are disappearing in droves. As a result of poaching, accidents and loss of habitats, the number of Asian elephants has plummeted from 250,000 at the beginning of the 2oth century to somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 today.
Art for a Cause
Enter the Elephant Parade, a series of art exhibits in public spaces that debuted in 2007 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands — home to its founders, Marc and Michael Spits. After each exhibit, the elephants — created from different fiberglass templates and painted in distinctive styles by a variety of artists from around the world — are auctioned off and a percentage of the proceeds are donated to the Asian Elephant Foundation. More than 4 million euros have been raised since 2007.
An American Girl Goes to Copenhagen
The Crown Prince of Denmark, Camilla Parker Bowles’ brother, a tony Copenhagen department store… all are part of the fascinating story that Sona Mirzaei, the only American artist to be represented in this elephant extravaganza, told Mary Haight for this week’s podcast on Animal Cafe. It’s a tale of American boldness and ingenuity, a woman seeing something she loved and grabbing hold of it by the trunk. As it were.
Collaborating and Painting in Public
Even more than learning how to work collaboratively with a good friend, Danish artist Per Hillo, Mirzeai had to get accustomed to painting in public, in this case at Copenhagen’s upscale Illum department store.
While trying to concentrate on her work, she explained the symbolism of the Triumph of Unity, as their elephant was called, to the crowds that gathered to watch the artists adorn the life-size baby elephant with the star of David, the star and the crescent, the yin and yang sign… Measuring five by six feet and painted with pastels and gold leaf, it was nicknamed Bianca because… well, just listen to the interview, and find out where Bianca is heading next.
Obsessed by Elephants
I’ve already mentioned my fondness for bats; someday I’ll discuss my deep and abiding interest in camels. But right now I’m fixated on the elephants, hundreds of them, on the Elephant Parade site. I’ve posted two of my favorites here. I probably could have chosen at least a dozen more. So that I won’t be alone in having spent more time than I care to admit ogling elephants on the internet, I’ll ask you: Which ones struck your fancy? I don’t have a prize to offer for your comments; the joy of contemplating these wonderful images will be its own reward.
I can think of a lot worse ways to spend your time. Remember, this is art — and for a good cause.