Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giant Pacific Octopus

My house looks down toward the water of Puget Sound which is home to amazing Giant Pacific Octopuses. I first saw one of these animals at the Vancouver Aquarium where its tiny tank seemed cruelly small. Similarly the tank at the Seattle Aquarium seems inadequate to me. These animals can measure more than 15 feet across. They are highly intelligent and can open jars, solve mazes, unscrew light bulbs and recognize people. I know that the octopus at the Seattle Aquarium is only held in captivity for a few months before being mated (on Valentines Day) and then released into the wild to lay her eggs. This makes me feel a little better about visiting her. I want to tell her to be patient and soon she will be free to swim again.

Maybe I am making assumptions about an octopus in a tank. Maybe she likes the security of her small enclosure just as some people like the physical comfort of a cosy house or the mental restraints of routine, roles and rules. I was thinking about this while making these drawings. I watched two movies back to back to explore this idea. Ang Lee's "Remains of the Day" about extreme emotional restraint. And for contrast "Sid and Nancy" about people who seemingly have no emotional restraint at all. Both ended tragically.

I drew this octopus both swimming free and in a tank, though I prefer the free one.

The day after I drew these pen and inks an octopus made headlines in Seattle. A diver was photographed dragging one out of the water, punching it repeatedly and throwing it in the back of his truck. This is legal. But there has been a huge outcry. It is interesting the read the comments as well as the articles in the Seattle Times.  I wonder when we will feel secure and well fed enough in this world that we learn to treat animals with kindness and respect. I feel our culture moving in this direction. I really do.

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