Our studio is a cutting-edge collective of working artists – we live and breathe our work and the pieces we create. But no artist works in a vacuum. In this series, we take a look at some of the movements which make up our lineage as artists, placing our current creations in the context of wider art movements. Today, we’re looking at Sumati’s work in the context of anthropomorphism.
Anthropomorphism is a term which refers to giving human characteristics to non-human objects. So, when you almost feel yourself making eye contact with one of Sumati Colpitts‘ winsome pig statues, or cheeky clay puppies, you are experiencing this kind of art in action. This movement is one of the oldest and most primal forms of creativity dating back to ancient cave paintings featuring bison, antelope, or hunting dogs. Think about the tendency of very small children to talk to objects they find around them as though they were conscious. It is a playful and natural way of interacting with the objects which are a part of our lives.
Ancient animal art
From the very earliest humans, around 40,000 years ago, humans created animal representations. It has been suggested that anthropomorphism developed as the very first humans became hunters, and as our brains evolved to begin to empathize with the animals; to put ourselves in their shoes. As we got to know our own natures better, we began to see echoes of them in the other beings we interacted with, and so the idea of anthropomorphism grew.
In Ancient Egypt, animal sculptures included cows, cats, crocodiles, horses, and hippos. Rams were associated with strength and fertility, bulls with regeneration and power, and baboons with eloquence, strength, fairness. and responsibility. Crocodiles were associated with death and judgement and were seen as the “king of kings” of the animal world. This attribution of human qualities to creatures is mirrored in the Native American traditions of assigning “medicine” to different animals, reflecting their perceived tendencies.
Anthropomorphism at Creative Gateways
When you consider this long and ancient tradition of conveying emotion and personality through animal expressions, it is no wonder that Sumati loves crafting animals so much. A quick tour of her studio reveals animals she treasures like friends. “Look at this guy!” she will exclaim, pointing out a particularly winsome owl or dog.
And at shows or in the gallery, it is these same life-filled animal representations that people are drawn to. Whether it is for overt symbolism – the ‘lucky frogs’ of feng shui – or an unconscious attraction to the qualities they embody, anthropomorphism is alive and well, and it is almost impossible to resist.
In animations, sculptures, movies, or literature (think Charlotte’s Web, or Babe) we cannot seem to resist the idea of animals as conscious, unique, and as connected as we are. Art like this helps us connect to the qualities we look for and value in our human relationships, and even in ourselves.
Choose your animal-as-human
So if you want to invite a certain quality into your life: grace, humor, contentedness, or wisdom – perhaps you could follow the ancient Egyptians, or the Paleolithic hunters, and connect to an animal which represents that for you.
With hand-made sculptures crafted individually, each one is different – so the best way to discover the one that is right for you is to come down to the Creative Gateways gallery and studios. We’d love to introduce you to the collection, and help you find the friend who’s ready to come home with you. (Consider it the most easygoing pet you’ll ever get to know). Check out our exciting events leading up to the holiday season by signing up for our newsletter below or follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with what’s going on!