David Packer was born in England and has lived in the United States since 1983, including Miami and New York. He graduated from Florida State University, Tallahassee, with an MFA, in 1994. Highlights of his substantial exhibition record include Exit Art and the Garth Clark Gallery, both in New York City, as well as Navta Schultz Gallery, Chicago. International shows include Morocco, France and Japan. As a curator, his work has been included twice in the Spring Break Art Fair. He has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Kohler Arts/Industry program, all in the United States, as well as AIR Vallauris in France. In 2011 he was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholar award to research ceramics in Morocco. David maintains a studio in Long Island City, New York.
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The bears are moving somewhere; some have luggage, some are being helped, some are carrying others, some seem disorientated. There are also rhinos in the group. The circumstances are not clear, but it is some sort of migration, a displacement, a forced change perhaps.
I started this project in 2017 when I was in residence in Vallauris, France, in close proximity to the European refugee crisis. Initially I made six pieces, a combination of five bears with two rhinos, and in the following years I have added pieces to this project, so that now the project has about 20 individual pieces.
I have ascribed different titles to this project, depending on the date and how I feel. All are instructive: pilgrimage (pèlerinage), procession, protest, or parade. Some indicate a religious intent, others political or social expediency.
What I do as an artist is to begin with a micro idea, a specific image or idea, in this case bears that seem like humans. Each choice is specific and careful – I always use images from either industry or that include animals. It may seem amusing to anthropomorphize the bears, but such levity is soon left behind with all the added associations.
The intention however is to resonate out into the macro, for the bears to have larger connections, for the work to exist ‘in real life’. Climate change is creating migration, migration is creating political populism, populism is eroding democratic governance, and the promise of the digital revolution as democratic and egalitarian is actually exacerbating financial and social inequality. It seems to go on and on. What is of deep concern is that all these issues are interrelated and fuel each other, one does not exist without the other; like the Hydra, one part cannot just be fixed, without something else becoming worse.
The reason why I continue this project is because the issues continue.
So why are the bears and rhinos on the move?