I'm currently taking a grad level Aesthetics course. We're currently working our way from Plato down through Nietzsche and Heidegger. I feel like I've reverted to my sophomore year, where I briefly flirted with a philosophy major.
As part of the course, we're expected to choose a key concept and develop a project. I'm tackling wildlife art... with particular reference to the Kantian concept of the sublime, and ideas of 'otherness' as developed by everyone from C.S. Lewis to David Brin.
Take the example from Wyland (on the left). They guy is arguably one of the most successful wildlife artists in the world, and there's no questioning his technical prowess.
The fact remains that most of his work reminds me of something Bob Ross might have done. There's certainly none of the sense of prickly 'otherness' that you get in a marine setting when massive, intelligent creatures that out-muscle you by a logarithmic factor start checking you out. Contrast this with work by the great Richard Ellis (below).
Anyone who's ever been in the wild and looked an otter in the eye knows that they're as unknowable as any wild creature, however. This is reflected in mythology. To the Tlingit, otters were 'Kushtaka', fearsome, soul-stealing presences. There are dreadful Japanese legends about 'Kawauso'- shapeshifting otters that would- in some cases- seduce men and devour them.
I have a plaster mold of a basic otter head. Using this as a starting point, I'm going to experiment with surface treatments and material. For example, the head on the right was formed using a mixture of coffee grounds and clay. It should yield a peaty-looking, porous surface when fired. I plan to foster colonies of moss and other plants in the crevices.
The head below is drawn from the Kushtaka myth.
Overall, I hope that the array will at least encourage the viewer to see past the surfaces to the wild, unknowable creature that exists outside the lens of our perception.