“What is real and what is not real? For centuries, the idea that unicorns and dragons could populate the Earth seemed as plausible, to some, as the existence of elephants. Before inventions like the printing press and camera, personal consciousness was limited to geographical boundaries. If elephants were not indigenous to an individual’s area, their knowledge of the animal was garnered either through oral tradition, written description, or an artist’s illustration (often based on the written description and not first-hand observation). Stories of fictitious animals were conveyed in much the same manner. The ability to distinguish between what was real and imaginary was not as obvious then as it is today.
Imaginary animals may not have a place in modern zoology, but their endurance in our contemporary mythologies indicates something very real about human need. Perhaps they endure because we need places for our minds to go—alternate realities that reflect the playfulness and possibilities of our imaginations. The artwork presented in Creatures does just that. Amongst the elongated ears, discombobulated limbs and topsy-turvy environments are open narratives that we can make our own.
Curated by Shannon Bingeman, Alberta Society of Artists (TREX Region 3)
Cover image: Janet Mitchell, Fun at Casa Claus, 1986, Etching on paper, Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts