Digital artist Hayelz creates endangered animal portraits to share insight into the loss of biodiversity. Visit her website to see more.
In 2015, I was exploring our relationship with the beauty of the natural world. The Mandrill portrait was the lone animal piece amongst botanical and mineral explorations. While showing friends, everyone pointed to the Mandrill and said, “Make more of that!”
I’d had the most tender relationship with the creation of that story. So, I turned my attention to animals.
In my research I couldn’t avoid the reality of the loss of biodiversity, beginning to show up beyond tiny snails and plants. It extended to larger animals that have disappeared or are on the brink of extinction, due to causes within human control.
I asked a lot of questions about language, science, culture, myths and theories about how we arrived at facing so much loss. It seemed to me the hierarchical systems that place humans above the natural world had been wreaking havoc. My grief and love were profound.
As these animals have been pushed out of their habitats, their disappearance erodes our ecosystems. We’re also being pushed out of our natural homes in this technological age. I believe we can identify with their survival instincts and nobility.
I found inspiration in cultures that believe humans are the “young ones” and animals are the “old ones” we can learn from. The hierarchy flipped. I began to understand that we humans need to weave ourselves back into the fabric of natural life.
I was captivated by languages that relate to other beings in a familial and egalitarian way. The word “Kin” was the working title. It was also part of my Scottish heritage. It didn’t feel complete, though. At the public library, on an adventure away from the internet, I paid attention to what I was drawn to—books, movies, poetry. I left that day with a movie called Collateral Beauty. The protagonist was questioning the universe by writing letters to love, time and death.
Afterwards, I turned my attention back to wondering what to call the collection of portraits. A thunderbolt struck me—I needed to call them Collateral Kin. Looking up the definition of the word “collateral” gave me shivers. I knew it was right.
With inspiration coming in fast, assembling these portraits in digital format was a way to capture their essence before I forgot them and while I had the time to attend to the construction. The animals were disappearing. I feared a future of facsimiles and binary computer code simulations.
Irrespective of our personal cultural views, observing life through the lens of animism is something we collectively share with our ancestors. From early cave drawings to hieroglyphs, myths and fables, we’ve been interpreting our human nature at the crossroads of human animal and human spirit since the beginning.
This ongoing series is a collection of portraits and written stories that challenge the current dominant cultural view of human supremacy and separation from animals. Our interdependence with our planetary cohabitants is a treasure and a portal through which we can understand our current predicament. The reality of this treasure is often overlooked. Collateral Kin offers integration and hope.
Artist Hayelz invites you to follow her on Instagram.