Local Artist Series: Ashli Sisk and the 500-year-old Rhino

 Ashli Sisk is the newest local artist to feature her work at Café Buunni, and we are truly honored. Read below all about why Ashli chose a five-hundred-year-old rhinoceros to star in this series, how she’s using her art to raise awareness about our roles as human beings in relation to the earth’s endangered species, and what you can do to help.

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Uptown NYC artist Ashli Sisk creates work that is unutterably beautiful, but she has a lot more than just aesthetics on her mind. As Ashli told me, her work speaks to “the human concept of extinction and conservation, the hubris of our role as planetary custodians, and our awareness of our own mortality as reflected in other forms of life.”

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(Here’s a close-up of some of the original text)

For this series, Ashli borrowed Albrecht Durer’s Rhinoceros, a famous woodcut that is one the most widely reproduced images in art history. In 1515 the rhinoceros was sent as a gift from the king of Portugal to Pope Leo X. Unfortunately, it died in a shipwreck. Since a written description and a sketch of the rhinoceros were all Durer had in the way of authenticity, he took some creative license.

And for Ashli’s part… she takes some creative license too.

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Ashli tells me, “As a species disappears from the planet, we mythologize and fantasize about it. [Our idea of] the Dodo bird is more Alice in Wonderland than the extinct animal that once roamed Madagascar.” Not only do we, over time, alter a society’s idea of an animal, but, Ashli says, we literally change the animals in reality, particularly ones whose existence becomes more and more confined to captivity rather than lived in the wild. “A wild tiger or grizzly bear will be a very different beast after generations of captive breeding […] Humans curate nature and shall change these animals, both actually and conceptually.”

Ashli takes her responsibility as one of society’s curators seriously. Considering that Durer’s image of the rhino was itself a reproduction of a sketch by an unknown artist – and that the image was an inaccurate representation of the rhino’s anatomy – and that despite this, it was considered accurate in Western civilization for centuries – all makes Ashli’s conceptualization endlessly compelling.

Sisk’s series culls nature and artifice, history and future, reality and fantasy, and turns it into one gorgeous important narrative. It’s kind of like a great big hall of mirrors. You can think about it until it makes you giddy, or until your brain hurts.  Or, you can just look at the art, because it’s so so beautiful!

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You can buy one of Ashli’s prints for $40, but probably not for that much longer because they are flying off the walls!

And get this: 40% of proceeds will go to the International Rhino Foundation, and another 40% will fund a research trip to Sumatra’s Rhino Sanctuary in December 2014.

You can find more about Ashli and her art here: http://ashlisisk.com/

And you can view Ashli’s art on the walls at Café Buunni for the rest of the month, as part of Washington Heights and Inwood’s 2014 Uptown Art Stroll. To learn more about all things Art Stroll (which you should), check out the brochure: http://www.artstroll.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ArtStroll2014-Brochure.pdf

Thanks so much to Ashli for loaning her art to Buunni’s walls, and for taking the time to explain her careful thought process to me.

Vive le rhino!








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