Chrysler Museum Explores Impact of Illegal Ivory Trade with ‘The wildLIFE Project’

Wendy Maruyama publicity images
Wendy Maruyama (American, b. 1952), “Sarcophagus,” 2015, wood, glass, and blown glass, installation at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 2015–2016, photo by Scott Cartwright

The Chrysler Museum of Art will explore the plight of animals threatened by poaching and illegal ivory trade when it hosts Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project this fall.

The wildLIFE Project draws attention to the killing of the two great animals of Africa, the elephant and the rhinoceros, through mixed-media works.

Maruyama, a retired professor at San Diego State University, is most known for her handmade art furniture, but has branched into different materials for this powerful work. The multi-sensory exhibition includes elephants immortalized in works eight-to-12 feet high, and a Buddhist-style shrine offers incense and a bell ringing every 15 minutes to honor animals lost to a $10 billion yearly industry.

The artist also constructed a cenotaph, an empty tomb erected in honor of those whose remains are elsewhere. The cenotaph features a video memorial to these wonders of the natural world.

Maruyama’s work combines art, advocacy and education, asking the public to consider what can be done to stop poaching. One elephant head piece, made of wood, burlap, paint and string, depicts Satao, a Kenyan elephant killed by poachers before Maruyama could finish the project.

Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project will be on view September 22, 2016 through January 15, 2017. Admission is free.