Rona Green's Paintings of Inked up Animals

Rona Green's Paintings of Inked up Animals

This visual artist explores tattoos and their ability to express identity politics.

Political art can take lots of forms, but it's rarely steeped in cuteness, which is what makes the Rona Green's paintings so outstanding. She creates illustrations of anthropomorphic animals that are covered in tattoos. The body art and other features that she gives her critters lends them an incredible sense of individuality. Though each of her paintings of tattooed creatures is first and foremost adorable, they all are suggestive of diverse identity politics as well, making them more than merely cheeky pieces of art. The way she stylizes her doggies, kitties, and bunnies makes them evocative of issues surrounding race, ethnicity, gender, and more.

"My work is figurative in its essence. It is driven by an interest in humans and animals as well," says Green in a short documentary by Learning Connextion. "I take inspirations from the things I see — an expression, an animal, a person, a posture, a particular type of tattoo — and then that starts to generate a story in my mind." Green's paintings — with their monochromatic backdrops, printed silhouettes, and sparse details — are beguilingly simple, but as you examine the body art that resides on each domestic animal, the clothing that they wear, and other features, it becomes apparent that they are far more than merely portraits of adorable creatures. 

The tattoos on each of her animal portraits act as signifiers of race, ethnicity, and other proponents of identity. This comes across clearly in her depictions of animals with Spanish phrases tattooed on their bodies, which demarcate them as being Chicano. The fact that Green uses animals as subject matter is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of her work. By choosing to feature critters as stand-ins for people, she undermines viewers impulse to profile them, even though their ink, facial hair, apparel, and etc. situates them as belonging to certain cultures or ethnic groups. This tension in her work gestures to our problematic way of categorizing and making assumptions about other individuals.

If you want to admire more of Green's cheeky yet profound paintings of animals with tattoos, pay a visit to her Instagram. She also has a website where you can see more of her art projects. Also, check out the fascinating short documentary above to learn more about her work.

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