Animalia Week: Housebroken by Areca Roe
Continuing this week about animals is fellow upper Midwesterner, Areca Roe‘s work, Housebroken. She captures the whimsical world of exotic pets in their domestic settings. These subtlety funny and bazaar relationships of people with their non-human companions explores our humanistic desire to be close with animals.
Areca Roe is an artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A recurrent theme in her work is the interface between the natural and human domains, and works with photography, video, sculpture, and installation. Roe received her MFA in studio arts, with an emphasis on photography, from University of Minnesota in 2011, and is now a professor of photography at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has exhibited throughout the region as well as nationally and internationally, and recently became a member of the Rosalux Gallery artist collective in Minneapolis. Roe has also received several grants and fellowships in support of her work, including the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant and the Art(ists) on the Verge Fellowship.
My art practice engages with our culture’s relationship (or lack thereof) with the natural world. This relationship is a complex one—we require and revere it, but we simultaneously destroy it. Perhaps above all, we have separated ourselves from the natural world, and from this comes a desire to reconnect with and return to wildness. In my work, I explore how these barriers and desires manifest themselves in our lives and our society. I am specifically interested in the relationship between humans and animals—in a myriad of ways, we try to create connections between animals and ourselves.
In this series, Housebroken, I have been photographing unusual pets in their domestic environments. Some people are drawn to create a relationship and share a home with creatures like snakes, turtles, potbellied pigs, and ferrets. The pets are fascinating animals, to be sure, but their relationship with the owners has an element of ambiguity—it is not as clear and established as the companionship and comfort offered by dogs and cats. Why choose to make such strong and intimate connections with these odd creatures? What does the owner find so alluring about a snake, despite the fact that it does not return the owner’s affection in a way we could recognize?
In these photographs the autonomy and individuality of the pets are in the foreground, and human presence is minimized. There is also a tension between the apparent wildness of the creature and its tame, mundane surroundings of soft textures and clutter. Conversely, some of the animals almost blend into their domestic surroundings, as if their camouflage has adapted to the new environment. I collaborated with the owners in choosing the photo locations, backgrounds, and scenarios within the home.
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