Brendan Wenzel: Wildlife of Vietnam

Released Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wildlife of Vietnam, by Brendan Wenzel.
15% of the sale of this print goes to the The Jane Goodall Institute.

Brendan Wenzel is an illustrator whose work explores the natural world and our relationship to it.

He is a frequent collaborator with conservation groups throughout South East Asia and is currently involved in Fauna, Flora International's efforts to save the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile from the brink of extinction. He is also attempting to create a visual collection of the planet's species circa 2010.

Brendan is a graduate of Pratt Institute and is the son of the illustrator David T. Wenzel. Currently he lives in Brooklyn, New York with his girlfriend Magdalena Long.

About the print:
This piece grew from a series of images I created featuring Vietnam's threatened wildlife. Until recently I lived in Ho Chi Minh City and although I like to think my biophilia knows no bounds, having called the country home for over two years, I have become particularly attached to its creatures.

This image also ran as a cover of the monthly magazine AsiaLife. The issue focused on threats facing Vietnam's species - in particular the illegal wildlife trade, which sadly is growing to meet the demand for bush meat and animal products for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Many species, including a number that are unique to Vietnam, may soon face extinction. I am insanely frustrated by the growth of this industry and I hope the piece conveys that.

This is a digital print on acid free, Neenah uncoated matte 100lb cover paper that is 80% recycled. Each print was signed and numbered by the artist.


Do you have any process drawings that led up to this finished piece?
These are some of the individual animals that eventually ended up in the cage.

What has inspired you recently?
In April rangers at Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam found the remains of a critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros. The animal had been shot and killed for its horn, which was probably sold for a ridiculously high price for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, despite the fact that study after study has shown that neither rhino horn nor bone have even the slightest medical benefit.

This event has really inspired me to work a lot harder. Vietnam is the last place in mainland Asia these rhinos survive and when I arrived in the country in 2008, despite much speculation that the small population of animals had already been wiped out, the species was in fact hanging on by a thread within a hundred miles of where I slept.

The optimism that there are Rhinoceros still out there in the park and the frustration that one of the last was poached within the short period of time I called the country home, really brings to light the urgency needed to address this issue and those like it. Right now, the opportunities to do good with my work are limited but are certainly growing. Though this is a terrible event, it has lit a fire under me to raise awareness and really give what I can.

Why did you choose to pair The Jane Goodall Institute with your print?
Since Kindergarten, I have been in awe of Jane Goodall. After watching a documentary on Gombe as a kid, I went into the backyard with a notepad and tried to gain the social acceptance of the local squirrels. I think I could have really shaken up the mainstream squirrelogy community if my research had lasted more than an hour.

But really...The Jane Goodall Institute acknowledges that the concerns of communities are linked to the well being of the environments that surround them, and that the degradation of those environments will inevitably have a direct effect on their human inhabitants.

I'm also a big fan of the Institute's Roots and Shoots program, which gets young people involved with the issues facing their communities, environmental and otherwise, and to then design projects that provide solutions to those problems.

Even if you would prefer to keep this print as far away from the walls of your home as possible, please consider giving to this organization anyway. It's just awesome.

How have you seen art transform the world around you?
A few years back I taught art classes in San Francisco. I was always amazed at how focused and calm even the most wound up kids got when they started drawing. I can certainly relate to that.

If you could pick one artist to mentor you, who would it be?
I think at this point I would rather wrangle a mentor with some storytelling chops than an illustrator or painter. I frequently get hung up while writing, and would really appreciate the guidance of someone I admire. Sir David Attenborough instantly pops into my head. He is a long-standing hero of mine and his documentaries resonate with so many people.

Also after a few years of mentoring, I might eventually be able to coax him into recording my voicemail greeting.

Who are some artists you think people should know about?
Oh, man. Here are some artists that I really enjoy and hope others might, too. Alice and Martin Provensen, Sidney Nolan, Quentin Blake, Carson Ellis, Leland Miyano, Walton Ford, Ben Shahn, Beecher Smith-Stackhouse, Deborah Ross, Ronald Wimberly, Charley Harper, Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Ghostshrimp, Lou Joe and of course my father David Wenzel, who was all over Middle Earth before it went Hollywood.

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