Art Criticism: Our Earliest Mammalian AncestorPosted: February 11, 2013
Big news last week – scientists have developed a concept of what the earliest mammal looked like.
Finding out what the earliest mammal looked like is critical. That animal had a lot of responsibility. It is the ancestor to elephants, cats, dogs, monkeys, monkeys who ride dogs, even humans.
Imagine what we could learn from an animal that could handle that responsibility. I am the ancestor to one person and the pressure…my God, the pressure! If I multiply that pressure by billions of species and billions of individuals of each of those species, I get an animal that must have been superb. The scientists didn’t come up with superb.
This is their best guess. I’m quite let down. You and I had every reason to expect more.
I don’t know, maybe there is something to it, maybe not. I do know that I’m happy the scientists commissioned this portrait for me to criticize. The artist has made some truly odd choices.
Let’s start with what is going on in the painting. This animal, our great-great-great-great-(etc.) grandfather, is talking to a bug. If they’re trying to get me to respect our ancestors, showing them chatting up beetles is not going to make it happen.
Talking to bugs is ridiculous and delusional. No matter what you tell them, they don’t keep a secret. And when insects tell your secrets, they always slant the story to make themselves look better and you to look like a fool.
Some might argue that this isn’t a chat, it is the last moment of the bug’s life. I’d contend it is not. Look the animal’s expression; he’s smiling. And with his right fore-paw, a gesture to emphasize his point. If this were an accurate painting, the lesson I would take away from it is that our ancestors were close talkers.
Is Squirrel Brown A Color?
And what of the artist’s choice of fur color? Squirrel brown and white? That’s it? This painting was a golden opportunity to go deep into the color palette since there’s no such thing as fossil evidence of the shade of the fur. The painter had carte blanche to pimp this mammal like it was an ’87 Impala. Instead he painted it like some bird feeder bandit.
If there is one part of this painting we can learn something useful from, it is the tail.
Avoid the distraction of our predecessor’s tail getting darker and darker toward the end. The painter is clearly taking artistic license by speculating that this animal had access to a salon to have his tail colored and the will to make that sort of statement. I’d like you instead to focus on the length of the tail.
You see, we know that this is not only our ancestor, but that of dogs as well. A tail that long would be a distraction to a dog. So, we know why this animal did not survive, if it existed at all. It chased its tail almost constantly, whirling itself to death and eventual extinction.
So, unlike some of the other paintings I’ve critiqued, this one stinks. It may be that I’m just disappointed in my ancestors and taking it out on the artist. I just don’t think I’m going to get over that feeling soon.
- Earliest mammal ancestor described (upi.com)