July 15, 2015

Artist Profile: Carol Cunningham

Pop, 2014

Through her use of kitschy, yet thought-provoking imagery and installations Carol Cunningham explores the fascinating and complicated connections humans maintain with the natural world while we become increasingly more reliant on the man-made. 

Cunningham investigates our overabundance of animal-themed consumer goods in  interactive installations such as Pop and in the photographs of zoo gift shops from her Interior Fluff series. In her poignant series of limited-edition prints, White Rhino Countdown, Cunningham brings attention to the rapidly approaching extinction of the Northern White Rhino. Cunningham's most recent series, Frozen Zoo, focuses on 50 critically endangered species listed on the International Union for Conservation and Nature's Red List. 

By examining the modern obsession with synthetic mass production in light of the sobering reality of nature's decline, Cunningham's work "bring(s) awareness towards the duality of decay and re-growth."

Read on to learn more about Cunningham's work and influences. 
Pop, 2014

What are some of the influences on your work & artistic practice?
I have always been influenced by Zoo's and Pop culture. My research revolves around cabinets of curiosity and the consumer market. When I moved to San Antonio a year ago, I took a part-time job at the San Antonio Zoo. My activities there are currently the largest influence on my work and research. I'm also very influenced by the San Antonio community, from items they donate to thrift stores, to piñatas and fiesta fetishes.

What drives you as an artist? What are you passionate about that you're able to express through your art? 
I think my drive comes from an innate curiosity about animal/ human culture and a need to bring some scenarios both constructed and real to people's attention. I have always steered away from being called an animal activist because there is often a lot of negativity associated with activists. I think more fitting words to describe myself would be researcher and conservationist. I enjoy being able to sharing my discoveries.

Frozen Zoo, 2015

Where you do find inspiration? 
My inspiration usually comes from the environment that I'm living in. I see Zoo's and Thrift stores as Cabinets of Curiosities with a plethora of things to discover. Pop Culture is also a big influence in my work. I'm constantly searching for those odd moments of interaction between people and animals or animal like figures.

Which artist(s) do you admire most, and why? 
Right now I am really into Mark Dion's installations and Diane Fox's  photography work. But I'm sure it will change in a few months. I love both of their work for different reasons. Dion's  work is all about the installation, cabinets of curiosity, and the found object. Where Fox's is about the interaction occurring between the viewer and taxidermy animals in museums.

Teddy Bear Garden, 2013

Carol Cunningham is an adjunct professor at the Art Institute of San Antonio and co-Director of Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery.  In February 2016, Cunningham's work will be featured in Abilene, Texas at the Center for Contemporary Art. That exhibition will focus on bears, hibernation, and spring. You can see more of Cunningham's work by visiting her website, www.carolcunninghamart.com.