Walton Ford, Nila, 1999-2000, watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, 144” x 216”, Photo by La Petite Claudine (Flickr) under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Walton Ford’s Wild Kingdom

Walton Ford’s watercolors are magnificent.  The contemporary artist paints the natural world on an enormous scale.  This watercolor of an elephant, when all twenty-two panels are placed together, is life-size.  The painting is meticulous.  The detail is exacting.  It is a stunning visual experience.

Certainly, Ford’s paintings call to mind John James Audubon’s studies of American birds in their natural habitat, yet Ford does much more than document.  This particular image can be considered a satire of nineteenth century colonialism.

The elephant marches along happily with a large erection.  Birds cover the beast, but they are not the oxpeckers that normally eat the ticks from elephants’ skin; these birds are from the west.  There are starlings, nightingales, and many others.  Two birds mate on the end of the elephant’s penis.  Perhaps the elephant symbolizes India or Africa.  The western birds, of course, are swarming and parasitic.

Walton Ford’s new watercolors are on view at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City from November 3rd through December 23, 2011.



Other works of art by Walton Ford

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