Alexandra Fanning in AlterNet:
Artist Joseph Grazi is known for his eccentric shows, extensive research and balancing his fine art career with his Orthodox Jewish background, as documented in the film Primal Heritage. In his latest exhibition, Cecil: A Love Story, on view at Joseph Gross Gallery in New York, Grazi uses a variety of media, including drawing and taxidermy, to examine the public debate surrounding Cecil the lion, whose killing by Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, sparked global outrage. Grazi creates a dialogue surrounding how we process atrocities committed against animals deemed beautiful versus those considered ugly, and delves into the rose-tinted lenses of Western privilege. At the same time, the artist explores the suction of internet activism with the consideration of easily digestible narratives such as, “Wealthy White Male Kills Defenseless Lion.” I spoke to Grazi about how he used the artistic process to explore Cecil’s story.
Alexandra Fanning: What did you initially think and how did you react when you first heard about Cecil the lion’s death?
Joseph Grazi: My initial thoughts were ruined by the public outcry, because I read about it first just like most everyone else probably did, which was through an angry friend posting it on Facebook. So my first reaction was to the reaction rather than the event itself.
AF: What encouraged you to explore this event in your artistic practice?
JG: I actually never thought about it artistically at first. Morality and aesthetics have always been a part of my work and I executed a few lion pieces before I realized that it was all really just one thing, almost perfectly contained into one news story and public reaction.
AF: Tell me about your fascination with animals, dead or alive.
JG: Always had pets growing up and gravitated towards animals in general. Although I can’t tell you 100 percent why. Though many non-human species have “culture,” there is something about the bareness of animals’ appearance and behavior—no clothes, no laws—just pure existence. I definitely found something tranquil in that.
…Cecil’s life compared to the life of a chicken or pig in a factory farm is not even comparable. One lived a life of being purely wild up until the day; the other is literally tortured to death over long spans of time. Yet only the first induces mass rage. I hope my work helps viewers to look further inward at the inconsistency of these behaviors and perhaps, over time, adjust for the better.