|"The Vanishing Kingdom" 15" x 24" 2018|
“It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.” - Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
This map is about the human-caused sixth extinction that is happening right now on the planet. I included animals that are already extinct and those that are threatened. I created it in its entirety in what I’m calling the ‘mosaic style’ by stitching squares, rectangles, and triangles that approximate the shapes of mosaic tiles. I envisioned this piece as a future relic portraying some of the animals that used to live on the planet.
I titled it the Vanishing Kingdom because visually it reminded me of a painting I knew from my childhood called the Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks. The placement of the four sea stars on the sides is a nod to the formal symmetry of ancient mosaics, and the letters N S E W on the lower left to indicate direction are surrounding a thermometer that represents the heating planet.
I fashioned the design in stages, using the iron transfer method for the general outline of the continents, then drawing all of the figures directly onto the fabric with a disappearing ink pen, and filling in the land and water around them. It was difficult to choose which animals to include because I had to consider the aesthetics of the overall composition; I began with five and then made decisions about which ones to add from a relatively small list. I based my choices on species diversity and endangered status as well as on color, form and the animal’s geographic location on the map.
Out of all of the animals that I chose for this piece I’ve only seen dragonflies and sea stars in their natural environment, so some, like the rhinoceros, have assumed an almost mythological status for me. The unfathomable loss of this extinction event begs the question: how has the majority of the human species become so disconnected from the natural world? The ecologist Paul Ehrlich states that “in pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches”.
The thirty-four animals in The Vanishing Kingdom, listed in alphabetical order:
Adelie Penguin, Barbour’s Seahorse, Black Footed Ferret, Black Rhinoceros, Blue Racer Snake, Dragonfly, Dall’s Porpoise, Elkhorn Coral, Euphrates Jerboa, Fin Whale, Giant Armadillo, Glaucous Macaw, Great Auk, Gunlack’s Hawk, Hammerhead Shark, Kawekaweau Gecko, Krill, Laysan Duck, Leatherback Turtle, Malaysian Snail, Monk Seal, Narwhal, Numbat, Panamanian Golden Frog, Pangolin, Polar Bear, Pyrenean Ibex, Quagga, Red Breasted Goose, Sea Star, Siberian Crane, South China Tiger, Tecopa Pupfish, Walrus
Here’s a link to The National Geographic’s Photo Ark website to see some of the astonishing and immeasurable beauty of the biodiversity on the planet, and to connect with the #SaveTogether campaign: