Picturing the Animal

A digital exhibition of animals in visual and material culture

Curated by Danielle Raad, Ph.D.

Little Red Riding Hood by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1911. From A Child’s Book of Stories, Wikimedia Commons.

Through creating or viewing artwork of various media, both artists and beholders may form, affirm, or contest ideas and attitudes about animals. Art is not neutral; depictions of animals do not show them as they are, but rather how people perceive or have perceived them. This digital exhibition employs ethics as lens and art-based pedagogy as method to analyze representations of non-human animals and animality in visual and material culture. It centers art as the basis for investigations into the ways in which people from different time periods and cultures have thought about and related to other beings.

This is an ongoing series of close-looking engagements, one work of art at a time. Viewers are oriented to the practices of mindfully slowing down, noticing detail, and visual analysis, or making inferences and connections rooted in close observation and historical context. As the exhibition unfolds, thematic threads will include the philosophical treatment of animals through time, conceptualizations of nature and wilderness, generative understandings of humanity vis-a-vis animality, and the epistemic uses of animals as symbols and stand-ins for human qualities like loyalty, grace, or courage. This project aims to visualize and articulate the complexities of our relationships with different kinds of animals so that we may begin to imagine possible ethical futures.

Visit our Exhibits page to see Picturing the Animal.