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Mixed Ungulate Totem by Andrew Denman <Back to Thumbnails "Totem # 6: Teton Totem"
36 x 12"
Acrylic on Cradled Board
2018
$8,000

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How to buy

This is the sixth entry in my ongoing “Totem” series. Modern reinterpretations of the Native American Totem Poles of the Pacific Northwest, these pieces offer impossible arrangements of common animals and birds. Isolated from their natural environments and portrayed in a whimsical, tension-filled, and surreal context, the viewer is challenged to reconsider the subjects in a new light. Native Americans traditionally used animals as potent symbols for their own human talents, frailties, fears, and desires, and despite the distance we have placed between ourselves and the natural world today, animals still play just as significant a role in our daily lives, from logos to add campaigns. These pieces ask the viewer to explore what wildlife means in today’s world, to consider the fragile balance we strike in our own lives between man and beast, and to ponder the plight of a natural world teetering on collapse.

In this particular piece, I decided to erect a totem focusing on the different ungulates I have observed in and around the Tetons. Though these paintings are not intended to be “realistic” in any traditional sense, they do need to adhere to a sense of basic logic within the universe I am constructing. Two things are of most importance, a believable sense of scale, which was difficult to achieve here since I have never observed most of these animals anywhere close to one another (and certainly not standing on each other’s backs), and a credible sense of balance. Of course, part of the point of these paintings is that the animals are balanced in a precarious and tension-filled arrangement, alluding to the delicate balance in which so much of our precious natural world currently hangs, but they do need to feel like they could really be pulling off this act of gymnastics. This requires careful redrawing of the legs of nearly every animal. Though my background as a realist painter keeps me honest in this pursuit, the influence of Native American iconography encouraged me to allow stylization to win out over strict technical accuracy. Most of my work, while inspired by experiences with animals out in nature, presents the subject removed from its natural context. Such is the case here, though the high-keyed, polychromatic background is meant to suggest, rather than describe, the glorious sunsets I have observed so many times over the preternaturally beautiful Teton Mountain Range. My work is all about animal iconography, and I wanted “Teton Totem” be as iconographic a representation of the Grand Tetons and their rich diversity of wildlife as possible.

















Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California –based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
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