How Makers of All Kinds Reclaimed the World’s Vilified Creatures

Bat – Daniel McLendon
  1. Those once-feared flying mammals don’t want to nest in your hair — bats are too busy gobbling mosquitoes with superpower abandon. Building protective bat boxes is a popular hobby for artists and
  2. Catch this buzz: Bats = Margaritas. Certain breeds are the sole pollinators of the Mexican century plant (aka agave), from which tequila is made. Some boutique distilleries now strenuously preserve the symbiotic relationship between bat and plant.
  3. But bats everywhere are seriously endangered, including in Western North Carolina’s own Bat Cave. And so is the dragon-like Hellbender salamander, native to only a few local rivers (Davidson, Mills River, Toe). Concerned artist Dale Weiler of Tryon once carved a Hellbender out of a 400-pound piece of alabaster.
  4. Painter Daniel McLendon (The Lift Studios, River Arts District) is known for his raw, abstract portraits of wild animals and insects, including bats and birds of prey.
  5. Christine Kosiba is another friend of the raven (see page 17). One of the sculptor’s best-known works shows three of the birds carrying off the limp body of a fox. 
  6. Not just merely clever, ravens and crows dispatch disease-carrying bugs and carrion. Local galleries including American Folk Art & Framing and Upstairs Artspace have devoted whole shows to crows.
  7. In her current exhibit Mythological Creatures, Kosiba extols ravens, crows, and other folkloric creatures, calling them “complicated beings.”
  8. Despite such honorable traits, crows in a group are still called a “murder,” and painters and poets rightfully take advantage of that. “Does being defined/By a month of Sundays/lead to bloodletting? … Let us prey,” writes Michael N. Thompson in his poem “Wilkes-Barre,” from A Murder of Crows (University of Hell Press, 2014).
  9. And let’s not forget about toads, once viewed only as wart transmitters and the stooges of questionable spells. Today we know that these amphibians, genius givers of the side eye, are a crucial catalyst in the ecosystem. Toads are the latest animal honored by illustrators on the U.S. postage stamp.
  10. Possums are cool, too. (They eat ticks.)
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