This Artist Paints Endangered Animals to Remind Us What We're Fighting For

“Life in the Desert”
Image: Alexis Kandra

Alexis Kandra has been drawing animals for years, but she never drew them with a moral message. They served as symbols—for danger, peace, or mystery. Kandra, a contemporary artist, is now painting animals to help raise awareness about their impending probable doom.

Her new exhibition, “Life on Spaceship Earth,” focuses on endangered animals (though it includes animals that aren’t endangered in the ecosystem, too). It opens Friday at Brooklyn’s Lucas Lucas Gallery where pieces will range anywhere from $100 to $4,000 each. And they’re truly something to marvel.

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Kandra uses oil paint to create the animals; she uses metal foil for the background. Together, the media results in sparkling—sometimes surreal—images that bring together predator and prey, the terrestrial and aquatic, the extinct and the endangered.

“I like to combine different animals together that wouldn’t normally be found together and play with the colors a lot,” Kandra told Earther, “but I want to highlight the aspects of the art that relates to our real world today and bring people back to what’s going on in our world and hopefully inspire people to want to preserve that.”

Kandra quickly realized how poorly many animals were doing when she began researching species she wanted to draw. The research comes before the art, and it didn’t take long for her to realize the severity and urgency of the crisis. And she couldn’t ignore the increased outcry from environmentalists and scientists, either. Up to a million species face extinction over the next few decades, according to a report out earlier this year. Why? Habitat loss, poaching, climate change. Our wildlife faces a variety of threats.

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“I started to learn what is happening in our world to them in real life,” Kandra told Earther. “And that started to inspire me to think about the animals not as symbols for some abstract idea but as real creatures that we have with us now that maybe we won’t have with us in the future. If we don’t protect them now, we may lose many, many more species.”

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Kandra’s work isn’t about portraying the misery many of these species are living. Instead, she opts to present their majesty and beauty. Her work is about helping save them. That’s why she’s giving 10 percent of the proceeds to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is one of the groups suing the Trump administration for its weakening of the Endangered Species Act. Text panels will also accompany each piece, noting the species names, their conservation status, and facts about the ecosystem. It’ll be similar to what a person might find at a natural history museum.

This may be the artist’s first foray into the world of environmental art, but it’s unlikely to be her last.

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“Life on Spaceship Earth” will be on view at the Lucas Lucas Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, until October 13.

“The Quagga’s Secret”
Image: Alexis Kandra
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“Mark Making”
Image: Alexis Kandra
“The Canopy”
Image: Alexis Kandra
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“African Savanna”
Image: Alexis Kandra
“Arctic Circle”
Image: Alexis Kandra
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“The First Horse”
Image: Alexis Kandra
“Living Fossils”
Image: Alexis Kandra
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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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