Visual Art

There is No Glory in Death in Pamela Henderson's "Ellipsis and Hatchet Acrylic"

Irritation and pity are not the expressions I imagined a shark would wear upon being captured or killed. But that seems like precisely the expression it has in Dallas and Union Valley, Texas artist Pamela Henderson's piece "One of Eight part of the series Ellipsis and Hatchet Acrylic."

Three people, presumably children, based upon their dress, stand examining a shark that has been captured or killed -- perhaps by the figures in the image (considering one of them holds a hatchet).

There is a strange repetition of imagery in the painting: seams. The seams on the children's clothing is pronounced, as well as the seam running the length of the shark's belly. There are seams running along the tops of the boys' heads, down the front of the people's faces, and on some of their limbs.  

The eyes of the children and the shark are the same. The eyes of the shark and the tops of the boys' heads are the same.

 "Why did you kill me?" the shark's face seems to ask, "We're the same. Don't you see?" The message seems clear: There is no boundary between human and butchered animal.

But the children in the painting don't understand. The little girl stands casually, one arm bent across her waist. One boy holds a hero's stance. One foot on his victim, he leans on his weapon proudly. The other boy straddles the tail and leans in, one hand on his chin as if considering what he has done.

The colors are muted, and the backdrop is warm like the sun's glow at dawn or dusk. There is a loss of innocence, a lack of understanding between the species, and a resignation that merges the two.

The viewer's eye is drawn to the shark, as if it's the shark who is the wise one. The shark is the knowing one, and the one who mourns for those who don't understand: We all have to live together. There is no glory in the death of a fellow living creature.

You can see the piece in the show For Lorn and Stature by Pamela Henderson at the Mercantile Coffee House through October 22 at the as part of the McKinney Avenue Contemporary's community outreach program.

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Jenny Block