One of the biggest influences on my life has been animals. Ever since I can remember I have had a special place in my heart for animals. I loved watching shows about animals, reading about animals, drawing animals. As I grew up I became more introverted and started to appreciate the companionship of animals. When I moved out to BC I got an orange tabby kitten who is currently living out his days happy and content on a farm in BC.
When I moved in with my partner at the time we had five dogs and four cats. We lost two dogs to old age, the dachshund and the husky malamute, and I adopted my first dog, Jake, a black lab, who came with a "free" kitten. We had a fat old tomcat adopt us. We took in a cat from a friend that had 13 of them and who was expecting another litter, scraped a beautiful tabby siamese cross off the highway and rehabilitated her at home, and were sucked into adopting a pathetic looking black and white kitten who had survived being hit by a train. It was probably a good thing we moved to a farm!!
When we moved to the farm in total we had nine cats and four dogs. Our newest neighbours were keeping their horses at our farm and since we had no big animals to keep the grass down it was no problem. The cats and horses seemed to get along just fine and the dogs got used to them and learned to avoid the back end. Before a year had gone we had three more kittens rescued from a dumpster, and two more dogs. If you're keeping track that's twelve cats, and six dogs.
Living on a farm is a lesson in life and death. We had seen our share of both. the week we moved there were at least three new dead animals every day on a short 35km stretch of highway. The week we moved there were over twenty victims of highway collision. I also learned a hard lesson about cohabitation with wildlife. My little cat that had survived the train had been killed and eaten by coyotes. I was devastated. I hated coyotes and although I would never kill one I did everything I could to keep them away from the house including shooting at them. Little did I know this was the beginning of something very special.
I returned to university the fall that I lost my kitten to coyotes. This was also the summer that my partner had seemingly read my mind about transitioning (see A Second Coming Out) and little did I know that I had all the material I would ever need for my art practice deep inside my subconscious. By the end of my first semester I had sort of figured out that the best art comes from a place of passion. In my opinion really good art can make you think, make you feel, make you curious to know more, teach you something, and makes you want to investigate something more on your own. Really good art makes a connection.
Living on the farm with all the animals, losing my friends, walking through the bush with them, observing the wild animals and birds al around me made me more passionate about animals and I began to see a connection between the way people treat animals and the way we treat each other. Our culture is ripe with discrimination, persecution, abuse, torture, indifference, and selfishness. Watch the news and see how many inspiring stories of cooperation and kindness cross your screen. For me there was no question about what I was passionate about or what I had to say.
Coyotes have come to hold a very special place in my heart among animals. I work with them because they are hunted and persecuted and misunderstood a lot like transgendered people. They are magical and special and in myth and legend can transform at will between animal and man or man and woman. They are the perfect vehicle for carrying a metaphor about transition, and reflect perfectly and accurately that nature is a harsh reality of survival in the wilderness.
Living in the north I have had to adjust my thinking a bit because survival depends on a relationship with animals. While I am here I hope to make a few discoveries about myself, the animals that are here and learn a few more lessons on how to survive with my new companions.
If you are interested in seeing my art practice visit my website at www.luckyjackpress.com