Elephant Toys

Elephantidae

Oil on Canvas, 2019
Dimensions: 144 inches x 84 inches

This painting took nearly 1300 hours of
studio time spread out over 18 months. It
depicts Billy, the iconic Asian elephant of
the Los Angeles Zoo, surrounded by 51 different
elephant-related toys, one Cyclops, one elephant
skull and one statue of Ganesh. I had read a
news piece about Billy, and the controversy
surrounding his life at the zoo, and it reminded
me of what the Toronto Zoo went through a few
years ago, when they were forced to give up their
elephants. I decided to make the trip to Los
Los Angeles to spend the day photographing Billy
as reference for a large-scale painting. Growing
up with a wildlife conservationist for an
aunt has given me a bit of insight into the
importance that zoos play in our current world.
Regardless of our ongoing debate about the ethics
of zoos, I believe they're tremendously important
for educational purposes, conservation purposes,
and giving a sense of awe to a population that is
increasingly detached from the natural world. I
think this sub-series of wildlife paintings are
sort of an acknowledgment of that juxtaposition
between the artificially cute/hyper-menacing
depictions of these animals in our entertainment,
and the overwhelming majesty and fragility of
what they really are. I love the toys, and I love
pop culture, but it also represents my shallow
detachment from the real world, especially the
'wild' part of it that continues to shrink.
Zoos aren't perfect, and they can often be
depressing places, but they can also help the
public experience that majesty.

Elephant Toys

Studio Image

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail

Elephant Toys

Detail