The Illegal Ivory Trade In One Room
After a trip to Kenya, San Diego native Wendy Maruyama felt compelled to create “The wildLIFE Project,” an effort to bring awareness to how illegal ivory trade practices affect the animal kingdom. The process for this exhibit began with her analyzing photos of majestic elephants taken during her trip, taking in their grandeur size so she could clearly achieve her vision.
The multi-sensory exhibition includes elephants eternalized in works eight to 12 feet high: “Maasai Nights,” the gray elephant, “Ghost,” the white elephant, “Orkanyawoi,” the map print elephant, “Sonje,” the burgundy elephant, and “Lekuta,” the brown elephant. A Buddhist-style shrine offers incense and a bell that rings every 15 minutes to honor the animals lost to the $10 billion industry. There is also a chest of ivory tusks, creating a horrible vision of how many elephants have been slain for the selfishness of man.
To create the structure of the masks, Maruyama utilized wood bark. She shaped the bark and then colored them with either paint or ink. She coated each panel three times with three different colors and then sanded the pieces down to reveal the change. Maruyama then used string to stitch the masks together. In her talk at the museum, Maruyama said that stitching the wood panels together was therapeutic for her because it made her feel as if she was fixing the damage done by poaching.
There is also a cenotaph, explained by the Chrysler as “an empty tomb erected in honor of those whose remains are elsewhere,” that features a video memorial to these incredible creatures. All of these pieces are located on the first floor of the Chrysler Museum in the Glass Galleries.
Located on the second floor in the back of the Arnold and Oriana McKinnon Wing resides Satao (c. 1968-May 30, 2014), the black elephant with the bull’s-eyes on his ears. The elephant stands in at a whopping 12 feet. Once regarded as one of Kenya’s national treasures, Satao was one of the largest elephants at the time of his death. Known as a “tusker” with massive 6.5-foot-long ivory tusks that nearly touched the ground, he was an exceptionally large target, hence the bull’s-eyes on his ears.
“The wildLIFE Project” is worth the trip to the Chrysler Museum. The exhibit opens the eyes of those who are blind to illegal ivory trade and the effect it has on elephants. The majestic masks will leave spectators speechless as they stare up at them, imagining the individual elephant that each mask represents. “The wildLIFE Project” is a sight to be seen and holds many lessons to be learned.
The exhibit will be on display at the Chrysler Museum through Jan. 15, 2017. Admission is free.