Coyote Portals, by Helen Tseng

Introduction: Artist Helen Tseng and I are both absorbed and intrigued by coyotes: it is because of this that we met. Not only have the coyotes themselves inspired her art, but she excitedly told me that she also has been inspired by my photos, some of which she has used as starting points for her own drawings. Hers are thoughtful creations, so please be sure to spend time reflecting on them and on her text: her simple outline art captures coyote movements and charm, and then she dives deeper into questions of her own (and our?) identity and her (our) place in the cosmos and on the globe where our success and expansion as a species has decimated so much of everything else.  

Coyote portals

I started this series in early 2020 as we entered a global pandemic and quarantine – a portal of sorts, both a closing and an opening. The act of making these coyotes became portals to me, as self-portraits and as visual commentary (portal and portrait share an ancient root, meaning through, forward, to draw forth). The narratives and imagery are influenced by astrophysics, literature, language, cultural critique, folk spiritualities, and more. The series is ongoing.

I have been and continue to be obsessed with coyotes, which I often encounter and observe on walks in the Bay Area. The oft-mythologized North American wild canid is genetically adjacent to the domestic dog, man’s best friend, but removed enough from civilization to be marked as vermin. Despite a long history of enduring systematic extermination by settler-colonizers, they continue to survive and thrive beyond expectation.

I appropriate coyotes as a mirror and proxy to mapping the contexts of my existence and the limits of my perception, while creating distance from implied specification and containment. They are an oblique path to examining identity, (im)migration, displacement, intergenerational trauma, adaptive resilience, marginalization, and erasure; a foil to my presence as an omnivorous mammal, apex predator, and unwitting species participant in the mass ecological destruction of this planet; a device for expressing all that defies reduction.

[Click on any of the images to enlarge them and scroll through them all]

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Thompson
    Sep 14, 2020 @ 16:22:01

    Magnificent.

    Reply

  2. Hilary Cole
    Sep 15, 2020 @ 05:36:24

    Hi Janet… Beautiful art, and words … very enjoyable to read ..

    Hilary 💖😘

    Reply

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