Enclosure 2016 foam, plexi-glas, speaker, wood, fabric, plant, vinyl, acrylic
Spawned 2016 spider plant, wood, concrete, tar, dirt, resin, plastic, vinyl, plaster, wire, steel
18 Tigers 2016 tiger mask, steel, wood, silk, motor, chain, LCD screen, concrete, fencing, dirt
*The video component of this work is contains footage taken from the farm in Zanesville, Ohio where exactly 5 years prior 18 tigers, 17 African lions, 8 bears, 3 cougars, 2 wolves, 1 baboon, and 1 macaque were released from their enclosures, shot by the police and buried in a mass grave onsite.
The Farther It Goes 2016 4:45 video
Amber Waves 2017 concrete, silicone, plexiglass, watercolor, paper, latex paint, pigment
Smokey the Bear 2017 projected video, plexiglass, pinewood
During the Great Depression, Tony Abacha was a young immigrant struggling to support himself in Manhattan. His father died WWI, leaving Tony responsible for supporting himself and his mother. Desperate for a paying job, Tony joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was assigned to a tree planting project in the Colorado Rio Grande National Forest. This was Tony’s first time leaving New York City. The wilderness taught Tony the feeling of being dirty and fresh at the same time.
During Tony’s 9 years of service in the conservation corps, Tony worked on several projects. The one Tony enjoyed the most was a firefighting unit in New Mexico. When the US joined World War II, the corps was defunded and Tony was drafted to France.
Meanwhile, back in New York City, an advertising executive named Richard Hammett was promoted to be the director of the Wartime Advertising Council. Richard was tasked with creating a response to forest fires that were started by Japanese submarines shelling on the California coast. Richard wanted to capitalize on human empathy for animals to make the public feel responsible for the forests. So Richard developed a cartoon character, Smokey the Bear, who would be the longest running advertisement in history.
The Wartime Advertising Council dissolved at the end of WWII. Richard was hired by the National Forest Service to continue his work with Smokey. In the postwar economic boom, recreation in national parks grew in popularity and Smokey began to appear in many of the park’s advertisements. Smokey encouraged the public to visit and care for American forests. The effectiveness of the public’s empathy for animals gave Richard an idea of how to make Smokey legendary.
After the war, Tony Abacha returned to New Mexico and worked as the chief fire ranger of the Lincoln National Forest. The forest gave Tony relief, he was undoing the damage of his urban factory work. He was putting out the fires he remembered from the war. It was a way for him to navigate his past in a tangible present.
One afternoon, Tony received a strange phone call from the National Forest Service back in Washington, DC. A man named Richard Hammett informed Tony that the Capitan Gap area of his forest had received threats of arson on the date of July 8th. Richard directed him to schedule all 20 fire rangers on duty for that day.
July 8th, 1950 came. Tony woke to the sound of trucks approaching his cabin. He peered out the window to find 30 Army women and men getting into formation. Tony dressed and staggered out of his cabin. A Sergeant informed Tony of a fire in the Northeast corner of the park, they said, “Gather your rangers and join us on the front.” Tony, one individual amongst many, complied.
The rangers were fighting the flames, when Tony noticed the Sergeant order 2 of Tony’s rangers into a truck. A few soldiers loaded the truck with cameras and tripods, then the truck drove off. Tony attempted to follow them, but the Sergeant directed Tony back to the flames.
Hours later, the rangers returned with a young bear cub in their arms. The rangers said that they heard the cub crying out from a tree. The bear’s fur was singed and his paws were burnt. The army sergeant took the bear and ordered the 30 individuals back to their trucks. With no explanation, the army had disappeared as unexpectedly as they had arrived.
Tony felt uneasy about the situation. The rangers kept records of bear cubs in the park to keep the public at a safe distance, and there were no bear cubs on record. When Tony searched the site for evidence, he found no signs of any cubs or a mother bear.
The National Forest Service adopted this young bear cub, and named him Smokey. He was taken to Washington, DC and was put on display at the National Zoo. Children mailed Smokey so many letters that the postal service gave him his own zip code. National Park tourism grew by 40% within two years of smokey’s rescuing.
In September of 1950, the Forest Service mailed Tony a medal and $2000. Tony used the money to visit the bear cub at the National Zoo. Seeing the caged bear broke Tony. Soon after his trip, Tony was fired by National Forest Service. Tony had disregarded many warnings to stop discussing his suspicions with the park’s tourists. Tony was warned not to disrupt the park visitor’s and to just let them enjoy the site of Smokey’s rescuing.
Leaning 2017 plaster, silicone, clay, tape, charcoal, plaster, acrylic, tempera, wood, wire