Humans have been seeking to derive power from the animal world since the dawn of civilization. Animal form and imagery has been used in costumes, masks, helmets, jewelry and other accessories from antiquity through modern times. Roman gladiators, Medieval knights, Samurai warriors, African tribes and even modern day football teams don helmets adorned with animals whose attributes symbolize power, speed, grace, longevity, wisdom, etc.
Most cultures have fascinations and deep-rooted beliefs associated with wild things. From spirit animals to totems and family crests, we look to animals to symbolize what we aspire to and to protect us from harm.
Inspired by 16th and 17th century Japanese Samurai helmets, artist Dana Van Horn created his own collection of animal adornments. “I particularly liked the fact that their form belies their function,” Van Horn noted of the Samurai helmets. Many historians believe that these elaborate helmets were worn by high ranking warriors so that they were easily identifiable in battle and that the animal symbolism was chosen to insure divine protection over the more practical physical protection.
Van Horn’s animal helmets, too, go well beyond protective headgear. This fabulous collection of mixed media helmets representing a diverse range of species, harken back to a time when such a form offered protection. Brought into the context of today’s environmental challenges, this exhibit leads the viewer to wonder: who needs more protecting and what attributes can we aspire to?
Forces of Nature: Animal Helmets by Dana Van Horn opens Friday June 28th with a reception free to the public from 7-9pm. The show will continue through August 28th.