Jody Olcott | Requiem

November 4 - 26, 2017 | Reception: Saturday, November 4, 6 - 8 pm

Rodrigues Night Heron, extinct 1761 , oil, gold leaf, salvaged wood, 46 x 26 x 12 inches

Rodrigues Night Heron, extinct 1761, oil, gold leaf, salvaged wood, 46 x 26 x 12 inches


Many thousands of species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. “Requiem,” Jody Miller Olcott’s first solo exhibition at Morpeth Contemporary, at once remembers extinct animals and calls attention to endangered ones.  

Olcott, a longtime Hopewell resident, found inspiration for these works while traveling in Russia and seeing traditional Byzantine icons (sacred images representing saints and other religious figures).  For her series, eighteen months in the making, she preserves aspects of  traditional icons—gold halos,  painted wooden panels, decorative constructions with opening doors, and recognizable protagonists—but turns her attention to her own sacred--and, sadly,  invisible--subject: extinct animals.

The animals in Olcott’s form of altarpieces—species of birds, frogs, tigers, wolves, turtles--are as diverse as the reasons they are extinct, but their message is singular:  a call for better stewardship.  As she puts it, “What these works say is: look what happened to these creatures, look at how reasons as intentional as hunting trophies and as indifferent as habitat destruction have banished them.  We each have to act as a steward.”

Olcott’s reverence for these animals is visible in her realistic painted depictions of them, including her attention to their fur and feathers or the emotion in their eyes.  Studying photographs  or naturalists’ journals and drawings, she took great care as a self-taught painter to capture them in benevolently “lifelike” detail.  The wooden constructions are also integral to both the process (she claimed and transformed discarded wood) and the message of the pieces; Olcott asks:  “Who lived in that tree before it was cut down or before it fell?”  

“Requiem” is a call for us to naturally consider our shared habitat through both our own thoughts and actions, and the support of the agencies with this as their mission.  As such, a percentage of all sales will be donated to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) headquartered in Switzerland.

Eastern Cougar ,  extinct 1937 , oil paint, gold leaf, salvaged wood, 39 x 26 x 9 inches

Eastern Cougar, extinct 1937, oil paint, gold leaf, salvaged wood, 39 x 26 x 9 inches