“Empathy is really important… Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.” These words from Dr. Jane Goodall1 might just be the formula for saving Florida Black Bears. At least, that’s what six artists hope.
As realist artist J W Baker explains, there is an “unacknowledged sentience that exists within all living creatures.” Inspired by his own encounters, J W’s paintings give these naturally curious beings a voice all can relate to. The title “Remember Me” suggests what the last living bear might say if he could speak.
Drawn together by dismay over the Florida Black Bear hunt, myself and five artists want you to care as much about this unique subspecies as we do. We believe Florida’s 3,000 black bears have as much right to live as its 20 million humans. If you knew that these bears were in fact recently endangered, you might understand why we are working together to give them a voice.2 With Goodall’s wisdom in mind, we wish to evoke your empathy and encourage you to speak out with us against next year’s hunt.
Painter Lucas Lamenha of Pernambuco, Brazil has only been to Florida once, but doesn’t hesitate when it comes to helping others. His painting suggests bears may wonder why they are targets when there are so few of them. Lamenha continues to help by incorporating this message into new work.
Artist and sculptor Herb Williams theorizes that animals communicate through signs that most of us cannot see. In his series “Call of the Wild,” he suggests their language is more colorful than we might think.
Photographer Chris Norcott understands bears very well, as he’s spent many years observing them. His mission is to capture and share their journey, which from his experience is not much different than ours. Norcott states, “Black bears are gentle, timid creatures, but they do have their own rules of etiquette, which we need to learn and understand in order to peacefully coexist with them.”
Leif Erik Johansen has seen the effects of wildlife displacement firsthand. The bear who visits his yard in North Carolina in search of food has inspired surreal works that examine our relationship with nature. He proposes everyone treat bears the way he does, with respect.
Respecting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s decision to open a hunt on black bears after 21 years3 is something I find difficult to do. The FWC made close to $400,000 from permit sales.4 Ponder this question: Which is more important in our society – financial gain or the environment? As I illustrate in my painting “The Greater Green” (2014), the answer can be turned either way – depending on who’s holding the coin.
We plan to coordinate an exhibit to further connect hearts and minds on this issue. Florida residents who would like to help are urged to ask their mayors to sponsor a resolution in support of the bears and respective senators to stand behind the Florida Black Bear Restoration Act 1096 of 2016.
For more information and ways to help follow the links below.
Image Credits: Slide show image 1: “The Bear and the Hummingbird”, © 2012 J W Baker | image 2: “The Beekeeper and the Bear”, © 2014 Leif Erik Johansen | leiferikjohansen.com | IG: @leiferik40 | image 3: photo of a Florida Black Bear and cub © 2015 Chris Norcott | chrisnorcott.com | IG: @chrisnorcottphotography | image 4: (left) “The Greater Green”, © 2015 Melanie Oliva | melanieoliva.com | IG: @melanieolivaartist & @inspirationpollination (right) photo of a Florida Black Bear by Chris Norcott | image 5: “Stop Black Bear Hunting”, © 2015 Lucas Lamenha | 5am.ag | IG: @lucaslamenha_artist | image 6: “Remember me”, © 2014 J W Baker | www.jwbart.com. Thumbnail image by Herb Williams.
1 NOVA’s series The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.