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5 Animals Who Make Art

5 Animals Who Make Art
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Animals can paint and make sculptures. But is it art?

In a 2006 article, Gisela Kaplan, Ph.D. and Lesley J. Rogers, D.Phil., D.Sc. considered this question very carefully, by considering how animals perceive colors (elephants only see two pigments; we can see three) and whether they feel any pleasure from looking at their creations.

That is, Kaplan and Rogers sought to consider animals’ creations with paint and other materials from their perspective. To us humans, the paintings of elephants may resemble abstract art but to assume the elephant thinks the same overlooks their very different anatomy, physiology and more. Plus, we do not know if animals in their natural environment produce art.

Nonetheless, studying animals’ artwork certainly shows that many are capable of more complex behaviors than had previously been thought. Kaplan and Rogers also note that a better understanding of animals’ aesthetic sense and abilities can have implications for animal welfare:

… might realize that sounds and colors matter as much as structures in the way housing for animals is organized, whether in zoos, research facilities, or other human settings, and that we should have a much broader perspective on the types of activities we make available to these animals. Ultimately, finding that some animals share a sense of aesthetics—as humans use the term—might well change our sensitivities and attitudes to animals overall, offering further evidence to dismantle the outworn claim that animals are “just” animals.

Here are five animals who make what we humans consider art.

1. Gorillas

There have been numerous reports of primates in captivity painting. But not only have the gorillas Koko and Michael painted, they have also been able to explain what they have painted as they learned to sign: Koko painted what looked like a bird with wings (albeit too many) and signed that she had painted a bird.

A chimpanzee, Moja, also signed that she had painted a bird.

Video uploaded by J. Patrick Malone/YouTube

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120 comments

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12:58PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

I am not sure what makes humans think we are so darn unique.. we just aren't

12:17PM PST on Jan 15, 2013

Not art for me; just funny. :)

12:56PM PST on Jan 13, 2013

thanks for sharing

9:09AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

Cool! Thanks

12:06AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Noted- thank you

10:35PM PST on Jan 4, 2013

David V. - I was thinking the same thing.

6:42AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

What kind of person needs to capture or breed, and forever cage a satient being in order to experiment on him/her to see if they enjoy making art? Would we imprison our children to see if they "like" their art work? Some PhD's got research funding for this. In college, they teach kids to do the same - more animal experimentation. We are so stupid. Look at the bigger picture here. If we want to know this simply go hiking and for once, be quiet.

5:43PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

a good read.

6:44AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thank you, Kristina. It seems to me that some animals at least are attempting to make works of art. The gorilla, for instance. He obviously has a clear idea of what he wants to do, and does his best, which is not very far from what abstract painters do. The only difference is that the gorilla lacks experience and practice. As it is now acknowledged that animal have a 'conscience' why should we deny them the fact that they are making art? Signed: a painter who enjoys painting portraits!

12:17PM PST on Dec 29, 2012

interesting.

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