anthropomorphism: n. The ascribing of human motivation and human characteristics to something that is not human.
I loved my science classes in school — especially biology, which helped make some sense of the silly socialization processes imposed on “us kids” in middle and high school. Though we didn’t have a family pet until almost the fifth grade, I made friends easily with the creatures in my classrooms and the pets of my school friends. I constantly begged my folks for a cat and then a horse. (Even to this day, my family KNOWS what I wish for every time I break a wishbone or blow out my birthday candles!) My favorite books were by Maurice Sendak (The Little Bear series) and Richard Scarry, talented illustrators who used animal characters to populate the tales of childhood adventures. My prize in the first grade art contest was a brand new copy of Tinker and Tanker and the Pirates, by Scarry. Many of the small vehicles appearing nowadays look just like the small apple car driven by Lowly worm, a common character in Scarry’s stories. The similarities go on and on. This bio of Scarry I found interesting, and allowed me to identify closely with some of his “departures” from the usual track proscribed by society as far as school and inspiration.
Studying creatures can teach lessons. The lessons apply to just about any human endeavor or interest. We notice parallels to complex situations in ecology and biology that echo human interactions. (Or, at least, I see things this way.) Wise Aesop, believed to be a slave from the sixth century B.C., used fables to teach basic ethics and morality, and some of the most beautiful books around today continue to use these fine stories to teach children. For generations now, authors and illustrators have used animals to figure in scenarios which give cause to re-examine our actions, opinions and affect our outcomes. (My personal art work always features animal subjects!)
As animals, we therefore point to this as the “excuse” for some of our more “basic” behaviors. And yet, some of the specifically human behaviors we are least proud of are not shared by our “less advanced” animal species. The human mind alone is capable of many abhorrent behaviors which do not appear within animal aggregations. Often when reading the news items appearing for general consumption, I have a hard time believing that animal populations perform the same actions as their human counterparts. (Supermarket tabloids at the grocery store, anyone?) Sad, but true.
Mary Liz Tippin-Moody
Studio Director, Print