le bonheur est un lapin chaud
(happiness is a warm rabbit)
I use familiar visual signs to explore materials, process and identity issues. I typically incorporate energetic drawing marks in oil pastels and graphite, gilding, glitter, various decorative surface treatments, along with text, building layers of meaning in the work.
For many years, I’ve been working on a series based mainly on my own documentary photographs of prize-winning rabbits from various rabbit shows, including the Virginia State Fair. In the transition from photographs to drawings, the rabbits have been freed of their cages, and the gesture of the hand-drawn mark takes precedence over photographic representation.
“Who doesn’t like a rabbit?” I have asked, knowing full well that there are those who find these images too safe and sweet.
How is the concept of happiness reflected in this artwork? Obviously, the image of a rabbit is a loaded image. Rabbits carry symbolic meaning that varies widely and is often contradictory. They are safe, soft, and cuddly and therefore an appropriate symbol for the child in each of us. But they are also fearful, shy and vulnerable, and sometimes prey for the hunter. At the same time, they remind us of our own sexuality, desire, and abundance speaking to the adult in us. Ultimately, rabbits may symbolically assure us of hope and happiness for the future with new life and new beginnings.
The rabbit as trickster and the artist as trickster also play an important part in my work. I frequently include French words and phrases, using Google translator to translate random phrases, descriptions of rabbit behavior and thoughts about the symbolism of rabbits into French, a language I neither speak nor understand.
- Michael A. Pierce, February 2017.
Chrysalis Gathering Space Richmond, VA