Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
Art and Visual Culture
Integrated Visual Arts
My body of work, Toy (with) Animals, examines the co-option of animals in toys through painting, assemblage, and installation. The exhibition considers the word “toy” in all its parts of speech. As a noun, “toy” means plaything, generally directed at children but largely made and purchased by adults. With playthings, children are encouraged to enact fictitious narratives that rely on speciesism and anthropomorphized clichés, further divorcing animals from their natural anatomies and realities. As an adjective, “toy” suggests diminutive size, and a concomitant diminution of importance. In miniaturizing a species, a reduction of features occurs. To “toy” with something means to mess with or manipulate. Living, breathing animals that inspire toys are far worse off than their inanimate caricatures. Animals suffer extinction, habitat loss, genetic manipulations, displacement, pollution, industrial use, and scientific exploitation at the hands of humans. It is troubling that as adults, we still often treat animals as toys—put where we want, admired when we are in the mood, ignored when we are fixated on something else, and tossed out when we outgrow them. Ironically, as we long for a wildness that is less and less present in our daily lives, we replace it artificially in our homes. Clearly, humans value nature and animals, but humans have lost touch with true experiences of the wilderness.
Throughout the exhibition, toys are utilized in intricate still lives, assemblages, and installation to create work that considers animal toys as playthings stripped of agency and reduced to toy features. Cut out paintings of animal images disassociate the organisms in their environment, leaving a void replaced by toys. Many paintings depict animal toys among domestic spaces and everyday objects that also evoke nature themes, such as intricate wallpapers, patterns, and décor. Use of collaged textile and text speak to the illusion of these items. Mixed media paintings invite viewers to question the human act of “toying” with animals as well as reflect on the complexity of humans’ artificial approach to replacing the lost wild.
Anna Noel Segner
Segner, Anna Noel, "Toy (with) animals" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17098.