The polar bear is a powerful symbol of the Arctic and its people. The sculpture "XTINCT" was created to raise awareness on the issue of extinction and the endangerment of the polar bear, the largest and most powerful land carnivore, and the small and often overlooked oyster, once thriving along the Canadian and U.S. eastern seaboard and now also threatened by climate change.
Encyclopaedia Britannica states that at the beginning of 21st century, "an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears existed in the wild. Because of continued global warming, a substantial reduction in the coverage of Arctic summer sea ice, primate habitat for polar bears, is expected by the middle of the 21st century. Model forecasts by the Canadian and the U.S. Geological Survey suggest that habitat loss in the Arctic may cause polar bear populations to decline by two-thirds by the year 2050." In 2008, the polar bear was listed as a threatened species by both the Canadian government and the U.S. government under the Endangered Species Act.
The WWF Climate blog "Eastern Oysters in Jeopardy from Ocean Acidification", published in 2010, revealed that "increased ocean acidity along the East Coast of Canada and the U.S., which formerly supported robust oyster reefs, reduces rates of juvenile oyster shell formation, altering the oyster's chemistry and ability to build its shells and skeletal structures." Agricultural runoff, sewage input and human consumption are also contributing to the decline of the species. A similar outcome could occur on the West Coast of North America.
The polar bear is an intrinsic part of the Inuit people's existence, landscape and culture. Inuit people use the polar bear for its hides, tendons, fat and flesh. Its disappearance would be a great loss for their well being, their way of life and their heritage. By being environmentally insensitive and unfriendly, we are seriously jeopardising the Inuit and the polar bear habitat.
"XTINCT" depicts a life-size, fully grown male polar bear that, when alive, would have weighed between 400 and 700 kg. and measured about 1.6 metres tall at the shoulder and 2.2 - 2.5 meters in length. Since polar bears have no natural predators, their longevity in the wild is normally 25 to 30 years.
The polar bear in the sculpture "XTINCT" lies on its stomach on a base, with its broad limbs stretched out, as a carpet, or a skin for a hunting trophy, its eyes and mouth opened, showing its teeth in a fierce grin. Its head and body are supported by a wooden structure and filled with organic materials so that its weight, volume and motionless mass can be perceived. The structure is covered with layers of wire mesh to which hundreds of oysters have been weaved in order to imitate the thick and uneven fur of the polar bear with its beautiful palette of beige, off white and yellowish tones.
The eyes and the teeth are the ones used by taxidermists to stuff polar bears skins; the strong, sharp claws and the nose are made with found objects: cleats to attach boats to shore and a stainless steel plumbing clamp.
This mammal and this crustacean, opposite in many ways, share a common destiny. The polar bear is threatened because of global warming. The oyster is part of an important but delicate eco-system which is endangered.
The polar bear is perishing out of exhaustion and starvation because of the fast shrinking level of the summer sea ice in the Arctic. Forced to swim for miles because of the thin ice breaking under its weight, without strength to hunt, it eventually collapses, to find its death. It is a paradox, the ominous polar bear dies of fatigue and starvation often next to its prey, a group of seals, unable to catch them because it has become too weak and feeble.
The polar bear and the oyster are paired together visually and formally in this sculpture. The shape of the oyster shell has the same tough, harsh and uneven quality of the thick fur of the bear. Moreover, it carries the same colors, tones and shades. Together, these two diverse creatures, create a common statement on their destiny, future and survival.
"XTINCT" is made with organic, re-cycled, low cost materials. The repetitive, methodical, tedious technique of weaving the oyster shells emulates the irreversible and relentless cycle of destruction that is occurring on the planet.
"XTINCT" is designed to make viewers reflect and act on these issues.