Monday, July 11, 2011

Killing For Art: Can a Snuff Filmmaker Be Redeemed?

How do I square dog love with Tom Otterness’ sculpture?
I love dogs and I enjoy the sculptor’s cartoon-like creations. That’s a combination that recently put me in the crosshairs of my fellow animal lovers.
Killing For Art? Sculptor Tom Otterness
Brooklyn based Otterness’ installations dot the New York city landscape, subways and parks. But according to animal activists, Otterness is a murderer, a charge that the artist would like to see go away.
Thirty five years ago, the sculptor, whose whimsical creations have made him one of the most successful commercial artists alive, adopted a young dog from a city shelter. Then twenty five, Otterness chained the small black and white dog to a fence, shot the animal and filmed its slow death for a movie he titled, “Shot Dog Film.”
Thirty one years later, Otterness apologized and called the shooting a ‘mistake’. The horrific act came to light recently when Otterness received a $750,000 private commission to install one of his pieces at the Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library.
As word of Otterness’ crime and lack of punishment travelled throughout the blogosphere I  began to wonder, Can an animal abuser be redeemed? Could the apology have been sincere? His contrition genuine, although private?
I posed the question on Facebook, where my friends include fellow dog trainers and animal lovers. Not one of the 50 or so comments on Facebook allowed for the possibility that Otterness’ apology balanced the killing. Many heatedly questioned why I would even consider the possibility that the deed could be forgiven. A behavior expert at a Boston animal shelter told me that it is the shelter’s policy to monitor abusers, not rehabilitate them. A psychiatrist told me that that kind of violence requires a considerable core of rage. My wife refused to discuss it with me.
The problem is widespread but unmeasured and it is poorly defined. Is animal abuse limited to cruelty? What about neglect? Hoarding? Dog fighting and cock fighting? Animal abuse, child abuse and spousal battery are closely related with cruelty to animals often leading to violence to people.
Can Otterness be redeemed? How about Michael Vick? Did his 21 months' incarceration balance hanging or electrocuting the dogs in his kennel? Can any abuser be rehabilitated? Or we a world condemned to tolerate, if not nurture, the Bad Seed? 
Comments, anyone?


  1. Love seeing my Jessie as doggie of the week! Will comment just testing.

  2. Glad to see her too! She looks very thoughtful.

  3. Yes, but remember how much she loves to pose for the camera (just like her Mommy) and she is also very happy because she was rolling around in the sand and got all dirty! Still want to recreate my thoughts on the story.....

  4. I think it's depends on INTENT. The Hoarder have no intention of abuse. He/She want love and validation.. it's really sad. Otterness and Vick had cruel intentions - Vick for money and Otterness for Art. I also think they are only sorry because they were found out. Atonement must be followed by action if it's to have any meaning. If they are truly sorry, then how about a donation of a Million - Chump change for them - Dollars each to a Shelter.
    Personally, I would not spend a dime to see Otterness's Art or to see Vick play.

  5. I wouldn't accept a dime to see either. I used to enjoy Otterness' sculptures in NYC. Now, not so much.

    I agree about atonement: Action speaks louder than words.

  6. Forgiveness is a very powerful virtue; however, I also realize that (in my own humanness), I can also choose who I wish to forgive - and I choose to forgive neither of them. I have a lot of trouble believing that either have expressed regret for any other reason than the almighty dollar.
    Melody and Jessie

  7. Agreed! Actions speak louder than dollars.