I’m excited that the paperback edition of A Lion Called Christian is now available in Australia and I look forward to talking about it in the coming weeks.

April

April 23, 2010

NEXT WEEK: 2 FUNDRAISING AUCTIONS

27th April New York: this classic photograph of Christian by Derek Cattani has been invited to be in an auction to raise money for the Humane Society auction to raise money for an animal shelter and refuge.

“On Tuesday, April 27, 2010 from 6:00–9:00 pm the Humane Society of New York will be holding our Third Benefit Photography Auction at Diane von Furstenberg’s new gallery, DVF Studio, New York City.  Photographers, participating by invitation only, include Nick Brandt, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Michael “Nick” Nichols, Gregory Colbert, Howard G. Buffett, Milton H. Greene, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt, Mikhail Baryshnikov, William Wegman and many more.  We have just discovered your amazing images of Christian the Lion and all of us at the Society were overwhelmed!  We would be truly honored if you would agree to donate one particular photo showing Christian lying on stairs in support of our work.” Humane Society of New York

Congratulations to Derek for deservedly being in such prestigious company, and good luck for the cause.

29th April Sydney: a reminder that the auction of artworks by leading Australian artists for voiceless is at the Sherman Galleries in Sydney.

AUSTRALIAN ANIMAL STUDIES GROUP

One of the many surprises of my re immersion in the world of animal and wildlife conservation over the last year, has been the fascinating and pioneering work being done at an academic level in relation to many issues relating to animals, their rights, the ethical perspectives on animals, and human/animal relations. I have mentioned that I spoke at the Minding Animals Conference in Newcastle last year. I was the light relief! I’ve just been reading the March 2010 eBulletin of the Australian Animal Studies Group, and it is very comprehensive and international. There are fascinating Conferences all over the world, mostly at Universities, on many different aspects of human/animal issues, and articles, profiles and book and documentary reviews. A website is underway. The many listed events include Global Animal: An Animal Studies Conference at the University of Wollongong 27-28 September 2010, and Animal Rights 2010 15th-19th July in Washington D.C. There is very useful information such as the World Animal Net – the world’s largest network of animal protection societies.

Marine life in Sydney Harbour – SMH environment
Photographs of marine animals in Sydney Harbour: Richard Vevers from underwatersydney.com.au

COAL

Sydney Harbour may be getting cleaner and healthier, but you would not want to live near a coal mine. Australia survived the GFC extremely well but this is primarily due to the demand for our minerals from China especially.  We have lots of uranium, iron ore and coal. Our governments at Federal and State and Local levels (yes we are overgoverned, and it is expensive), are hostage to this income, and while coal mining is having a ruinous effect on the health of residents in previously idyllic rural areas, the government is reluctant to acknowledge the possibilities or even fully investigate. In one area alone there are 30 dusty open cut mines surrounding residents, and in Gunnedah, another very fertile area of NSW that produces a lot of food, some unlikely conservative/landed gentry landowners are mounting a serious blockade and protest, while some neighbours sell their properties for huge sums. Last month the NSW Supreme Court found in favour of these farmers who were blocking BHP Billiton from exploration, and the NSW Government with their usual cavalier attitude to planning regulations, has just changed the legislation to favour the mining industry. Google Tim Duddy and the Caroona Coal Action Group.

Two new coal-fired power stations have also been announced in our state – just as there were coal mine disasters in both China and the US, and at a time when we should be backing away from coal, and other countries are recognising the economic opportunities offered by alternative and more sustainable energy sources. One estimate has these power stations increasing the State’s total emissions of carbon dioxide by 22.9 million tonnes each year – a 15.1% increase.

This does raise the questions of both our aging city infrastructures – run down in relatively prosperous times by most governments around the world, and population numbers. I think we have about 22 million people in Australia – mostly huddled around the coast and in a few big overstretched cities. There is a projection of 36 million people by 2050. These debates often turn racist here as it concerns immigration targets and asylum seekers, who have been arriving lately primarily from Sri Lanka and Iraq in not inconsiderable numbers. Unfortunately the Federal Opposition has been predictably shrill (there are votes in xenophobia and racism), and our government has caved in and introduced tougher and less humane restrictions on them, and made the asinine comment that it is now safe to go back to their countries of origin!

UPDATE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Jonny Lewis’s Kiribati photographs highlighting rising sea levels is now on exhibition at the Wharf Gallery, Sydney Theatre Company, Hickson Road until the 21st of May.

Isn’t it hard deciphering the different opinion pieces about Climate Change, and whether Copenhagen was a success or a dismal failure. The skeptics are quieter, but worryingly so are the politicians ……. and the public are unaccountably less concerned than they were. But 114 countries have backed the Copenhagen Accord, 74 have submitted targets to cut or slow greenhouse gas emissions, and China and India volunteered to slow emissions. Our Prime Minister, after initial great enthusiasm for one of the great challenges of our times, failed to explain the complexities, and hasn’t uttered the word for months. I’m particularly offended by him at the moment anyway, after reading he had not attended an art event since becoming Prime Minister in 2007!

Unfortunately Australia is also dependent on uranium exports – we own 30% of the world’s resource. I just can’t embrace nuclear power, especially given the problem with waste disposal. A clan of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have been offered 12 million dollars for nuclear waste to be dumped on them. Fortunately neighbouring clans are opposing this, not wanting their land, shared Dreaming sites and water contaminated.

BIRTHS

A baby elephant presumed to be still born surprised everyone by surviving at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. It has been named Pathi Harn which is Thai for “miracle”. It was fascinating watching the mother and other elephants have total faith and patience in the zoo staff working to save the calf, and their loving, casual touching and entwining of their trunks with each other and the staff.

There is a new rhino calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in central NSW. Their press release said only 4,230 black rhinos survive in the wild, and since the 1990s the Zoo has produced 11 black rhino calves. Other recent births include four cheetah cubs, three giraffe calves and a Przewalski’s horse foal.

I’M CONCERNED ABOUT

The conditions of designer puppy farming which should be under a lot more scrutiny; Australian sheep wool may be boycotted internationally if mulesing continues (a cruel practice that does however prevent deadly flystrike); the on-going slaughter of elephants in countries like Tanzania because of the black market trade in ivory, as the growing Chinese middle class, especially, want to buy ivory trinkets such as chop sticks; the annual seal “harvesting” in Canada, which is always highly emotive – their blood on the snow, and does raise interesting and difficult questions of culling, traditional practices and all the other animals we eat quite happily, let alone industrial chicken meat production; cruel experiments on animals; a giant new dam in the Amazon and the trees being cut down in the far south coast of NSW, the habitat for the last little colony of koalas there. Don’t we humans ever learn?

SUSTAINABLE EATING

There were some excellent tips in the newspaper the other day for “sustainable eating”: buy local, buy seasonally, minimise packaging, choose unprocessed or unrefined foods, grow your own, eat less meat and consider organic. Easy! Also, think what we could do with all the water we just lose in the cities, and all the uneaten foods or scraps, especially fruit and vegetables, that could be used as compost. What is encouraging is that quite a lot of uneaten food is now distributed in a well organised way to the hungry.

CONGRATULATIONS

Legendary David Attenborough has reached the North Pole for the first time, at the age of 83. He is filming for a BBC nature series highlighting the effect of global warming on the earth’s extreme regions. Apparently the Arctic winter ice has recovered slightly, but long term loss is continuing.

FAVOURITE VIEWING

Beautiful People; Australian “psycho dog man’s” performance now on YouTube (I saw the original footage as I am uneasy about those Staffordshire dogs myself having had a “run in” last year with one; American Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich on Australian television – impressively bright and sophisticated  – after the neo cons we have been sent in the recent past.

Born Free - Joy Adamson

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Born Free first published in March 1960. I recently bought a copy (14th Impression) signed by Joy Adamson. I have never read it or seen the film, despite them being such huge hits at the time. Watch out for the upcoming documentary on Born Free, as Joy was a fascinating if difficult woman, and her work with George Adamson was so prescient, and I’m going to finally read Born Free…

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year - BBC Publishing

On my return from LA, I rushed to see this exhibition on show at the Australian Museum in Sydney as it closes on the 26th April.  The exhibition, now in its 45th year,  is “owned” by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, and is designed to promote a wider awareness of wildlife conservation, and to “encourage interpretations of the natural world through art”. There is huge international participation and interest, with many categories and various age groups.

Eyes in the Oasis - Lee Slabber

Eyes in the Oasis - Photographer Lee Slabber

As the exhibition consists of the winning, runner-up and specially commended photographs, the standard is extremely high. I had read in the media that the Overall Winner was disqualified and withdrawn, (although the image is in the accompanying handsome publications) as the wolf jumping over the farmer’s fence was possibly a trained animal rather than a wild one.

The exhibition space was very dark, and with all photographs back lit, they really stood out. I felt the world was still a pristine and beautiful place, and although many images were about survival or full of drama, it was life-affirming. From close-ups of ants and locusts, to a wide variety of animals and birds, plants and landscapes. I felt inspired, refreshed, and calmed – all at once. While not the best photograph, there was a cat frightening off a much bigger fox, and of course big cats featured prominently, including a well known tiger Machali in India’s Ranthambore National Park, that has supposedly contributed $10 million to the local economy, which I hope secures her safety.

Flight of the Locust - Photographer Chris Van Rooyen

Flight of the Locust - Photographer Chris Van Rooyen

Look out for the exhibition (or Google the images) as it travels to over 60 cities around the world,  or if you are a nature photographer, enter yourself  next  year!

Los Angeles

April 1, 2010

Tim Street Porter - Los Angeles cover

Tim Street Porter

 

I had lunch with friends Tim Street Porter and Annie Kelly in their very Hollywood house, once owned by Adrian who dressed big stars such as Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo. Tim must be one of the best architectural photographers in the world and you can read a recent story on him in American Photography here. Separately and together they have worked on many projects, such as Rooms to Inspire in the City  

    

Tim Street Porter - Rooms to Inspire in the City   

More on Annie Kelly’s work can be found here.  

Another guest at lunch, Michael Duncan, a highly regarded curator and writer for the magazine Art in America, is now NOT coming to the Biennale of Sydney (opening next month) over some ridiculous mix up.   

A Lion Called Christian - US paperback 2010

A Lion Called Christian - US paperback 2010

 

I think this is my favourite cover – out of about 8! Although I just love the Scrapbook, and it is my favourite present to anyone regardless of age and they aren’t expected to read it out of duty.We had an extensive radio tour this time, compared to the television tour last year, and I wanted to be in Los Angeles for mine – one day I did 11 straight interviews. People are still very interested in Christian’s story. I visited bookshops and signed copies. I am always surprised and grateful that people ask such positive questions and don’t ever admonish us for the risks we took.  

I was staying at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood where many people in the music industry stay and I loved it. It was the first days of spring and sunshine, and all the girls looked SO slim – and the men pumped up and fresh from the gym. Many had miniature dogs in harnesses that were taken everywhere, or walking with the owners who were usually on the phone. There seemed to be pet boutiques every block.  

 This contrasted with more empty buildings and more homeless on the streets of LA than last year and apparently there are 33% more homeless this year in New York. I’d finally read The Road on the flight over, and with the GFC and a mild earthquake while I was there, as I skirted various people on the pavement I thought chillingly “there but for the grace of God go I” and how unresourceful I’d be in a disaster or an emergency.  

Apparently many families are finding it hard to feed their pets, and if it is a choice between animals or food on the table, pets are the first casualty. Organisations have evolved which are actually providing food to animals in homes to prevent them going to shelters.  

Barack Obama was wrestling with the Health Bill which is now signed, and even if flawed and compromised, it is a truly historic event that he will always be remembered for. Thirty million Americans have been unprotected by a ‘safety net’. I was surprised so many Americans resent so strongly helping the less well off, or sharing the benefits of a wealthy society, and Obama out-manoeuvred them brilliantly. 

 

I felt very fortunate with our national health scheme in Australia.  

Michelle Obama’s initiative Let’s Move is challenging grocery manufacturers to rethink their products and how they are marketed to children, and encouraging healthy eating. Products in general need to be much more accurately labelled, especially in relation to products that contain palm oil as their plantations are eliminating animal habitats.  

Similar to Australia, two thirds of adults and one third of children are obese or overweight. And most 8 to 18 year olds spend an average of 7 1/2 hours a day multitasking in front of TVs, videogames or computers. Unfortunately many live in neighbourhoods where it is unsafe to run around outside and exercise.  

I always love visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I enjoyed the exhibition American Stories – everyday life in paintings up to 1915. I wondered what images one would use to tell an Australian story? There were marvelous new acquisitions of Pacific art. There is not very much Australian Aboriginal art in public American institutions although the 3 largest private collectors of Aboriginal art have been American – Kelton, Kluge and Kahn. There were extraordinary examples of South East Asian sculptures and carvings, and I was immediately drawn to an exquisite female Hindu deity, with the most simple and elegant shape. I read it had come from Angkor Wat where I had been just a few months ago, and it suddenly seemed stolen, and poignantly a long way from home. There was also a comprehensive exhibition by Joseph Beuys, and not to forget the Picassos, Giocomettis and Brancusis.  

I finally visited the Getty Centre on top of the hill. It is fabulous site with spectacular views of LA. Of course it is the wealthiest art institution in the world, and impossible to compete with at auction. I was reminded that the collection was originally a personal collection and I imagined J. Paul Getty buying originally for his palatial Sutton Place mansion in the UK – the sort of paintings (like Gainsborough), decorative furniture and objects and stunning 17th century tapestries one would like to live grandly with if one was nouveaux riche (exceptionally). I was too dazzled by the opulent Louis 14th gold but loved especially the extraordinary medieval texts.  

The architecture by Richard Meier was a series of not large pavilions which again for me reinforced the idea of a personal collection rather than a public gallery collection. I was reading Nicolas Rothwell’s The Red Highway, primarily about the extraordinary people that have been attracted by the Australian deserts, and where the first chapter deals with one of the first major collectors of Aboriginal art. The bark paintings Karel Kupka collected from the Northern Territory in the late 1940s and 1950s are now hanging in the Musee Quai Branly in Paris. Rothwell said “He was also in the grip of an urge that gained a stronger hold on him with every day: it was the collector’s disease, that unsleeping impulse to acquire, to classify, to create a microcosm where order and pattern can be shored up against the world”.  

Frederick H Evans - Ancient crypt cellars in Provins, France 1910

Frederick H Evans - Ancient crypt cellars in Provins, France 1910

 

The Getty also has a huge photography collection and on exhibition were photographs from the 1890s by Frederick H. Evans. He was well known for his serene and beautifully composed photographs of cloisters and cathedrals, and portraits of friends such as Aubrey Beardsley and GB Shaw. He also photographed the 15th century house of William Morris.   

Haile Selassie I with lion

Haile Selassie I with lion

 

Talking to an Ethiopian staff member at my hotel, as lions were on my mind, into my head popped Emporer Haile Selassie and I said, “What do you know about the Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah?” He said “Well, he was my great uncle”!!!   

Naturally I was totally fascinated, and Solomon Selassie told me up to 20 lions lived in the Palace and the gardens and foreign dignitaries were often met at the airport by a lion greeting them on the tarmac and no doubt were often terrified.   

Imagine having a family lineage that traditionally goes back 3000 years to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? After tumultuous events in the 1970s, including a coup d’etat, family members lost their lives while others scattered around the world, although Solomon’s father still lives in Ethiopia.   

Reading the LA Times one day was depressing: there has been a surge in brutal poaching in Zimbabwe and South Africa (which makes the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust breeding program with rhinos even more important); a sign of things to come where tanker owners in Karachi, Pakistan were siphoning off as much as 41% of the water supply and selling it off at a profit; and a top official of the UN Wildlife Agency at a 175 nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species said tigers were on the verge of extinction and where 20 years ago 100,000 tigers were in Asia, now only 3,200 remain in the wild. Also at this convention a ban on the export of Atlantic blue fin tuna fishing (stocks are down 70%) was voted down, and I am ashamed to say, it was not supported by Australia.   

As my shocking clothes from the late 1960s and early 1970s have been seen and laughed at internationally, I can’t decide if I should – or should not, talk about clothes! In my defense, we were encouraged and instructed to look very “Kings Road” and not to cut our hair for the two documentaries made about Christian. That look, especially “Carnaby Street”, was thankfully coming to an end and by then I was coveting the extremely smart menswear that YSL designed at the time. Having grown up in straight suburban Australia, it had been a relief to break out, although I still cringe at what I wore at university – yes, shorts and long white socks. Although I am an art curator, supposedly with “a good eye”, I have obviously no clothes sense. Over the years I have settled for a black and white “uniform” – jackets over a white T-shirt or shirt and often with jeans. But I love shopping in America and in LA I quite quickly found myself at Barneys New York as the clothes from all the major designers are there. I think if it is by a good designer I stand a better chance of buying something that suits me… although I envy friends who are naturally stylish and can go to St Vincent de Paul or opportunity shops and buy something great for practically nothing!   

Prada is always interesting and expensive. Yoji Yamamoto was just sensational and so imaginative again, but too chicly attention getting for me. Neil Barratt always surprises me with how good he is, and I wonder ‘who is he?’ and why isn’t he better known – or is he? Last year I was fascinated by the delicacy and fineness of Balenciaga and I didn’t even know he made men’s clothes – but you would have to be young, thin, pretty and either rich or kept! Armani had the best for someone like me (60+)… but the suits and handsome jackets were expensive enough for me to resist. I didn’t even go into BOSS – a bit of an addiction that was noticed by my companions last year in the States, but I did run into GAP at The Grove to stock up on T-shirts etc. 

Before flying home I went to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico for the weekend and it was most attractive.  When I was still at school I loved the film Night of the Iguana with Ava Gardner and Richard Burton and others. It was my first introduction to the transgressive world of Tennessee Williams. I was going to make a pilgrimage to the site as it was made nearby – you can’t visit the house, and I didn’t bother – I just relaxed – the water, beaches and surrounding hills are beautiful. Development, locals and foreigners seemingly mix well. Some Americans were so old, escaping the cold winter… it was inspiring. I found the place more Suddenly Last Summer… 

  

Houdini the cat - Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson's Houdini. Photograph by Tim Gadd

 

I’ve been enjoying reading the comments and suggestions and hope to respond appropriately in time. I’d love this blog to be more dialogue than monologue! I especially appreciated Craig Anderson’s response to the Late February post about Christian and Kimba the White Lion. Christian is indeed an “ambassador” between humans and animals, and we all do have “the capacity to be an agent for greater awareness and thus change for the better”. I loved Craig’s cat Houdini’s story (Early March) and what a good example of the joy an animal can give – and that he rescued him from a shelter. I do think Craig could have introduced him to the already resident cat Lucky a little more tactfully! I cried over his friend the squirrel’s farewell, and losing him.

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