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Biophilia Life; or, My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail

December 14, 2018 – February 9, 2019

A message from the curator:

The first title of this exhibition, Biophilia Life, comes from the biophilia hypothesis, made popular by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book, Biophilia, in which he describes it as an “urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” With the prefix “bio-” (which means “life”), and the suffix “-philia” (which means “love”), the term literally means, “love of life or living systems.” So, in essence, Biophilia Life is just a fancy description for the second, more homely, title of the exhibit, My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail. Due to the historically long and close relationship we humans have had with domestic animals and pets, I felt it was important for viewers to be able to come to this conversation of art and animals comfortably from both formal and casual perspectives, hence the exhibit having two titles.

Being a life-long animal lover (and proud parent to two dogs and a cat), I have wanted to explore this relationship between humans and our animal partners though minds and hands of artists for years. Aside from perhaps our own offspring, there may not be anything else that presents such strong feelings of love and attraction in humans as our pets. Who doesn’t love puppies and kittens?!

This human/animal relationship truly is something special, and has been around longer than recorded history. Animal domestication first occurred with the dog as far back as 30,000 years ago (true to form, domestic cats came along on their own time nearly 20,000 years later), so innate, biological bonds have been weaving us together for a very long time. Those bonds with our pets took relatively recent jumps in the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries with the inventions of flea and tick products and kitty litter, which brought these furry bundles of joy into our homes, elevating their status to family members for many. At over 62%, more households in the U.S. claim residents beyond Homo sapiens sapiens than those who don’t.

Anyone who has a pet knows how special they are. It is undeniable that they make a positive impact on our health and happiness – serving as an excuse to get out and exercise, by providing companionship, or to ease anxiety serving as therapy animals. Studies have even shown that when a person and a dog look into each other’s eyes, levels of oxytocin (a hormone associated with maternal and social bonding) rise in both participants.

This exhibition includes work by local and national artists that explores and celebrates our unique connections with the domesticated animals in our lives. Please visit these artists’ websites to get a preview of what you can expect to see here at the Carnegie Center for Art & History.

–Daniel Pfalzgraf


Rachael Banks

Malcolm Bucknall

Gaela Erwin

Carlos Gamez de Francisco 

Sonya Yong James

Douglas Miller 

William Wegman