Brad Wilson

Artifact, XXI, Eastern Screech Owl (1/7), 2024
Photograph, Archival Digital Pigment Print
20.50 x 15.50 x 2 in
Contact For Pricing

Image Size; 14"x 29" Edition of 7,  21"x 29" Edition of 4,  32" x 44" Edition of 3



The original subjects of the first human art were animals. Horses, bison, lions, rhinos and pigs, among others, were painted on cave walls in what is now France, Spain and Indonesia starting around 66,000 years ago. Though this symbolic act served no obvious utilitarian purpose for early hunter gatherers, it must have occupied their consciousness in deeply meaningful ways. Perhaps the works were a form of reverence for creatures they saw as essential food sources, powerful rivals or mysterious deities, or perhaps they were the starting point for more complex communication and conceptual thought. Whatever the significance of the art itself, one corporeal mark was inevitably present: the outline or print of a human hand. Across vast land masses and many millennia it was always there, a simple but profound statement from a distant Paleolithic ancestor: “I exist”.


I too am drawn to animals as my primary subject matter. Like our early homo sapien relatives, I create art for many complicated reasons, many of which I suspect are consciously unknowable, and many of which are simply based in a desire to understand and explore my own existence. What I learned after spending time in close proximity to animals was how profoundly separated I was from the purely physical, present moment world they inhabit–a domain shaped by instinct and intuition that all humans once lived in as well. I am firmly rooted in the modern age with all its technological advancements and distractions. I make images with the digital precision of high-resolution camera sensors, expansive editing software and large format pigment printers, and contained within that workflow is an implied expectation of perfection. Animals remind me that there is often beauty and meaning to be found in situations that are unpredictable, uncontrollable and far from perfect, a set of circumstances that formed the foundation of the early years of my career. Discovery and revelation were driven through random accidents with film, paper and chemistry. With this new work I wanted to revisit and incorporate some tangible feature of those analog beginnings.


I eventually selected expired large format Polaroid instant film that was manufactured during the same time period I was taking my first serious photographs and starting my professional tenure in New York City. I manually processed and worked each unexposed sheet by hand, trying to resurrect long dormant chemistry which was only occasionally viable. When all the elements combined successfully though, an abstract landscape of texture and tone emerged across the film. Even more remarkable, this transient wet surface allowed for the possibility of embedding an enduring and uniquely personal mark: my fingerprints. The polaroids were often many decades old, time travelers, rare surviving remnants from a previous life, so I was leaving an impression in the past as much as the present and remaking them both. I combined these manipulated artifacts with my contemporary in-studio portraits of animals to create a new series––one that embodies the fluidity of time and our immutable connection to wildlife through the co-evolution of our species.

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