Arts & Culture: Conservation of Southwestern Wildlife

by Kacey Barton

It is not often that an art exhibit is centered around conservation awareness, but one of the newest exhibits at the Kennedy Gallery of the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas does just that. Confrontation, an exhibit featuring solo works from artist Lauren Strohacker (and collaborative works with Kendra Sollars), looks at the growing conflict between humans and nature, and specifically the impact that we are having on the natural habitats of animals.

Upon entering the gallery, viewers are greeted with running, standing, and sitting silhouettes of Mexican Gray Wolves. These silhouettes are part of Strohacker's NO(w)HERE public works project, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of one of the most endangered mammals in North America: the Mexican Gray Wolf. These paper silhouettes are placed across cities the Southwest, their number corresponding to the actual population of these threatened wolves.

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Another feature in the exhibition is Un-Fragmenting, an exhibit that is as haunting as it is emotional; its cause to bring attention to the detrimental consequences of the US-Mexico Border Wall and anti-policies regarding predators, on native Jaguars. The original installation was projected onto the rusted iron fence that separates the United States and Mexico, giving the effect of a Jaguar in a cage, negative spaces representing the bars. For the Kennedy Gallery, Un-Fragmenting was shown in its original state via two video monitors with photo transitions every few minutes, the impact just as profound.

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An additional video was shown of Sollar and Strohacker's collaborative work, Animal Land, a stirring project where animals were projected in negative on a large scale onto man-made structures at night, the feeling of loss stirred within the viewer, coupled with awe and wonder.

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The sincerity of Confrontation can be seen through the quality of the works displayed as well as the messages conveyed through the efforts of both Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars. With the future looking uncertain for many of our planet's species, it's now a more important time than ever to take action to ensure that these species will have a future. It's with the help of exhibitions like Confrontation that people become aware of the issues facing wildlife in a world that is dominated by human development and rule, and that it serves as a call to action among the viewers.

There are many ways to get involved with wildlife conservation; volunteering your time, money or skills to organizations such as the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Defenders of Wildlife, or your local botanical gardens and wildlife centers. What are you doing to help? Let us know in the comments!