Now Available: Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals

Announcing my new book: BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader.

Since the year 1500, nine hundred species have become extinct, yet their stories are not being told. This loss is a crisis in human values as our relatives on the tree of life are disappearing under our watch and because of our actions.

There are no historical parallels here. Aldo Leopold said, “For one species to mourn another is a new thing under the sun.”

BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader fills an important niche by remembering these animals in lyrical but factual stories that allow us to celebrate, grieve, and memorialize what is now gone.

In terse yet evocative writing, one hundred extinct animals from around the world are brought to life, from the freshwater mussels of Appalachia to the shrub frogs of Sri Lanka, and from the honeycreepers of Hawaii to the hopping mice of Australia, bringing the enormity of the present biodiversity crisis within our grasp.

BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader is available from the publisher’s website: penandanvil.com/brief-eulogies, where you can also find excerpts of the book.

“Forgetting is another kind of extinction,” artist Todd McGrain has said about his Lost Bird Project. These animals deserve to be remembered, and with this book we can not only remember and mourn them, but honor them as well.

Order BRIEF EULOGIES for LOST ANIMALS: An Extinction Reader today from penandanvil.com/brief-eulogies or Amazon.

Artists and Extinction V: Brandon Ballengee

How can artists convey the idea of disappearance and extinction of species?

This has long been a question for Brandon Ballengee, a visual artist, biologist and environmental educator based in Louisiana, whose many art installations have been inspired by his ecological field and laboratory work.

Initially, Ballengee wanted to use silhouettes to show something as there but disappearing. But while experimenting with blacking out extinct animals in old nature magazines, he recalled that Robert Rauschenberg once created a work that was an erased de Kooning drawing. So, rather than erase extinct animals from books, he began to cut them out with an Exacto knife (as long as there were multiple copies of the book).

This led to the creation of his installation, “Framework of Absence.” Ballengee created the works from real historic artifacts that were around while the animal was fading into extinction. After the animal was excised from its source, the depiction was burned and the ashes were placed into black glass funerary urns etched with the names of the lost species.

At installations, viewers were asked to scatter the ashes, an act that Ballengee hoped would connect participants to the lost species and help prevent further extinctions.

A few examples show the power of the exhibit. Here is the Great Auk, missing from the North Atlantic:

2008Ð9. Extinct by the late 19th Century. Artist-cut print from the Bowen Editions Royal Octavo Birds (1840Ð71). Eighth edition printed and hand-colored in 1871 (just prior to plates being burned in warehouse fire). 6 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches. Photography by David W. Coulter.
2008Ð9.
Extinct by the late 19th Century.
Artist-cut print from the Bowen Editions Royal Octavo Birds (1840Ð71).
Eighth edition printed and hand-colored in 1871 (just prior to plates being burned in warehouse fire).
6 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches.
Photography by David W. Coulter.

Here is the Spectacled Cormorant, missing from the Kamchatka Peninsula:

1869/2014. Artist cut and burnt hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 30 5/8 x 74 5/8 inches. Species last observed 1850s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1869/2014. Artist cut and burnt hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 30 5/8 x 74 5/8 inches. Species last observed 1850s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

Here is the Guadalupe Caracara, missing from Guadalupe Island:

1860/2014. Artist cut and burnt wood engraving, etched glass urn, and ashes. 9 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Species last observed 1860s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1860/2014. Artist cut and burnt wood engraving, etched glass urn, and ashes. 9 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Species last observed 1860s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

And here is the Sea Mink, missing from the rocky coasts of New England and Atlantic Canada.

1849/2014. Artist cut and burnt print hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 13 5/8 x 16 inches. Species last observed 1870s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.
1849/2014. Artist cut and burnt print hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 13 5/8 x 16 inches. Species last observed 1870s.
Photo by Casey Dorobek.

More of Brandon Bellengee’s work can be found at his website.

Previous entries for my series on artists and extinction can be found starting here.

Interviews with Eco-Artists

A few years ago, I interviewed several eco-artists about their work. They include:

  • Randy Laist, Associate Professor of English at Goodwin College who recorded an alphabet’s worth of songs about recently extinct species on Youtube;
  • Jenny Kendler, who together with Molly Schafer founded the Endangered Species Print Project;
  • Todd McGrain, a sculptor who created five larger-than-life bronze sculptures of recently extinct birds and installed them at places where the birds once thrived. Check out his film, The Lost Bird Project;
  • Xavier Cortada, a Miami-based artist who created eco-art installations at both the North and South Poles. His website is cortada.com;
  • Andreas Kornevall,  a storyteller, writer and rewilder who was one of the founders of the Life Cairn movement, which seeks to memorialize recently extinct species. Andreas has a Tumblr page;
  • Joanna Barnum, a painter who has created an evocative series of recently extinct species portraits. Her internet home is at joannabarnum.com.

Stay tuned for more cool interviews in the near future!