September 26, 2009

dalí's anteater? surreal!

I was stunned this week to stumble upon a very amusing and very awesome photograph of famed artist Salvador Dalí. The photo, which dates from 1969, depicts the 65-year-old Catalan surrealist emerging from a Paris subway station led by his trusty giant anteater. Of course, I had to do a little digging to find out more...

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Dalí, you should just know that he was a very creative, imaginative, and some might even say strange guy. His affection for anteaters supposedly came about as a reaction to fellow surrealist André Breton, who was known as "le tamanoir" ("the anteater") among the other surrealists of the day. Several decades after the publication of Breton's poem, "After the Giant Anteater," Dalí began sketching anteater-like figures. He dedicated one of these to Breton, and it was made into a series of bookplates, which Breton affixed to the inside of a number of books in his library. That particular sketch, seen below, is known as "The Anteater." Incidentally, if you've got an extra $1,500 lying around, you can buy yourself one of Breton's old bookplates bearing the same design!

But Dalí's anteater shenanigans didn't end there. He is also remembered for having gone onto the Dick Cavett show (kind of like David Letterman or Conan O'Brien today) on March 6, 1970 carrying a small anteater onstage. It's impossible to say without seeing the episode whether it was a giant anteater or a smaller tamandua—sadly, I haven't been able to track the clip down. Regardless, the story goes that as Dalí made his way toward his seat next to Cavett, he surprised fellow guest Lillian Gish, a well-respected star of silent films, by flinging the anteater onto her lap! As you can probably guess, she was not amused. But everyone else in the audience sure was! •>~

September 14, 2009

going it alone

As you may be aware, giant anteaters are solitary creatures for most of their lives. Aside from brief encounters with mates, the one big exception to an anteater's single life is during its formative years, when a young giant anteater lives with its mother. Anteaterlings generally ride on their moms' backs for up to a full year before even thinking about venturing out on their own. During this time, mothers provide their young with food, protection, and guidance.

So what happens when a mother abandons her baby? The scenario is relatively rare, but it does occasionally occur. In the wild, the baby could die, especially if it's particularly young and inexperienced in looking for food. But zookeepers are certainly not going to let an anteater baby perish under their watch! So in the rare instances when a captive mother rejects her baby, humans take turns caring day and night for the youngster until it's old enough to be left on its own.

The following video tells the heartwarming story of Olive (also pictured above), a giant anteater born at the Houston Zoo last year and hand-reared by members of the zoo staff. Check it out! •>~

September 12, 2009

anteater art

Time was, you couldn't find a giant anteater depicted on any kind of artwork, much less good artwork. Today, I'm seeing a lot more anteater art, mostly thanks to Etsy, the online craft depot that allows you to search artists' offerings by keyword! My latest find is a set of elegant sketches by an illustrator and paper engineer by the name of Helen Friel. (A paper engineer is an artist who specializes in the creation of pop-up books and other 3-D paper art.) Friel, who lives in the U.K., spent some time at the London Zoo, which currently houses two giant anteaters, Bonito and Sauna. Using pen and ink, she rendered two adorable illustrations, one of which is for sale on her Etsy site. Nice work, Helen! •>~