Works by Meredith Cawley
On view April 4- 29, 2023
Dale Brock & Visiting Angels Gallery
In 1969 Zoologist Robert T. Paine coined the term keystone species. This term relates to the idea
that certain species can act as a keystone in an arch. Just as the arch crumbles without its keystone so does the ecosystem without a certain species. What is exciting about this idea is that in preserving certain species means that we can protect all of the other fauna and flora related to that ecosystem. Bears in particular are an excellent example of a keystone species. Because bears are omnivores (technically carnivores) they regulate prey populations. Through eating fruit and salmon bears both spread seeds and fertilize the soil. A healthy male bear’s home range is up to 300 square miles. Which means that by protecting bears we can protect vast areas of wilderness. Bears hold curious space in American culture. They simultaneously can refer to maternal love (momma bear) or a sign of masculinity. Bears are a beloved stuffed animal for children and also the danger that lurks in the forest - think “lions, tigers and bears, oh my!” In fact, the California Grizzly Bear appears on the state flag but is an extinct species that was caught up in America’s “from sea to shining seas” manifest destiny plan of conquering the wilderness. Most Americans have only seen a bear in a zoo. And the best place to find a bear isn’t the forest but in the dump scouring for food. The bear is roughly the most human appearing of North American animals with its frontward facing eyes and ability to stand on its hind legs. We can relate to this animal even as we fear it. If we as a species refuse to protect bears, maybe another form of life will...
Meredith Cawley is a multimedia artist based in Texas. She currently teaches at the University of North Texas. Her 10 years as an outreach educator at the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History inspire, inform, and drive her practice. Her current line of inquiry focuses on how cultural opinions represent, shape, and affect the bear.