US Chickens

Welcome to the new year!  Peregrine Honig is the Artist of the Month for January 2011, selected by the mysterious artist and curatorial eminence, Bengala.  For her reign, Peregrine produced 61 unique drawings of animal libel.

MB: In Art Spiegelman’s Maus, specific species of animals stand in for specific populations of people.  Mice are Jews, cats are Nazis, and pigs are Jews working with the Nazis.  Do your mice, cats, giraffes, chickens, walruses, etc stand for ethnic, demographic, or cultural groups?

PH: My giraffes, squirrels, mice, walruses, cats, and roosters stand in for a bevy of D list celebrities, reality television stars, socialites, and arm candy. I sat down with a bottle of walnut ink, my small collection of Steiff toys and my larger collection of the books for people who seriously collect them and went to town. I tore each page of Arches off the block with my bone scorer and had a great time naming each character and delicately coloring them.

My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor- I just went to visit him last month. My father encouraged me to learn about my grandfather’s life through literature and I took an extensive class from Milton Katz about the Holocaust that included Maus. I appreciate Art Spiegelman. His work is wonderful.

Animal Crackers is about consumer characters and voyeurism. The animals are funny because we don’t want to be viewed the way we are viewing them. I love Beatrix Potter and Edward Gorey. What would happen if these dainty characters got caught in the tabloids?

MB: What are some other influences for this work?

PH: Recently, I’ve been researching Shirley Temple and the censored Baby Burlesks series. Temple’s Animal Crackers took on a very different feel for me after watching her earlier work. My drawings often allude to something familiar and express something else. I am interested in the space between precociousness and exploitation.

MB: Are you a vegetarian?
PH: I do eat meat. I was a vegetarian – and a good one – but I really am healthier when I eat meat. Sorry?
MB: I like how the slurs and epithets you’ve ascribed to the animals are all reactions and reactionary.  All of the insults respond to perceived wrongdoing and transgression.  Is it your premise that animals have secret lives that we will never grasp?  Or are you actually making fun of that notion?

PH: Tabloid headlines are so much about implication. “Jane’s New Friend” = Jane is a slut.”  I am interested in popular culture and I enjoy replacing fashion prey with alternative victims. The invisible judges of circulating trends are the markers of nothing. As newspapers go bankrupt, I gather the abstract catch phrases in celebrity magazines. The best of do’s and don’ts, sporting a baby bump, who wore it best? I love Mr Piggles: worst dressed. He is drawn from a Steiff pig on eBay. He knows Beatrix Potter and it gets him on the red carpet. But he is too sweet for Hollywood. His linen is too simple, the buttons too bright, and for this he is publicly admonished.
MB: Aren’t you glad that American artists, for the most part, don’t have to worry about being the tabloids?  I hear that in England, it’s more common for tabloids to cover artists.
PH: I’m working REALLY hard to get in the tabloids! So far I’ve only gotten into Short Hair magazine.