Artist Cuts Extinct Animals Out of Their Illustrations

Brandon Ballengée, “RIP Great Auk: After John Gould” (1873/2014)
Brandon Ballengée, “RIP Great Auk: After John Gould” (1873/2014) / Brandon Ballengée, “RIP Great Auk: After John Gould” (1873/2014)

American artist Brandon Ballengée doubles as a biologist, and draws inspiration from his ecological field and laboratory research.

The scientific artist's "The Frameworks of Absence" pays tribute to the animals that have been erased off the earth by erasing them from acquired natural history lithographs. Ballengée cut the animals out of their illustrations and framed the empty outlines. The cut-out animals were then burned and placed in vials with labels that read "RIP."

The altered lithographs are currently on display at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts booth in the Armory Show in New York City. They serve as a stark memorial for the animals that have ceased to exist. With their silhouettes on display, it's hard not feel their absence.

Ballengée explains on his website:

We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, often referred to as the Holocene or Sixth great extinction. Species are disappearing at upwards of a thousand times the natural rate. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals have disappeared from the Americas in recent centuries. Such extinctions started when the Europeans first colonized these new lands and have continued until today with recent losses like the Eastern cougar (2013), the Pinta Island Tortoise (2012), The Florida Fairy shrimp (2011) and many others.

The works currently on display are set up like a Victorian funeral. Each animal comes with an obituary that details the print's origin and how the animal went extinct. The walls are "Victorian" red to symbolize the destructive nature of man. “It’s this idea that was really born in the 19th century, that we could control nature,” he told Hyperallergic. “And as a result, we’re killing everything.” 

Also in the booth is a video of the cremation process. The vials—or urns—filled with the cremated animals come with the prints; buyers are encouraged to spread the ashes symbolically.

"The Frameworks of Absence" is accompanied by The Book of the Dead, which comes in PDF form for download.