In 1994, I began routine visits to draw Western Lowland Gorillas at Zoo New England's Franklin Park Zoo in Boston with an open curiosity about apes, ape behavior and simply a desire to draw from life. I sit at the gorilla habitat for the day with 22”x 30” paper and charcoal for a minimum of 4 hours. The habitual practice of drawing these gorillas at the zoo has come to serve as a ritual or an act of worship for me. It has been my practice for 27 years. I refer to it as The Ape Drawing Project.
Certain paintings represent a recognizable likeness to a specific gorilla or reflect an individual personality. The gorillas feel so familiar; I see parts of myself in them.
My experience drawing and the zoo setting is particularly important because it is the inspiration and source for all my art; I observe more than the gorillas. As I draw, I am a silent observer of the zoo visitors and often they observe me as if I am another ape on exhibit. It adds an important sociological component; the zoo experience as a metaphor to discuss larger cultural ideas including animal nature versus human nature, my self-conscious attention to class, the concept of observation as entertainment.
JEN DRAWING AT GORILLAS FRANKLIN PARK ZOO
NEW YORK TIMES - Exhibition at Mary Heaton Vorse House, Provincetown
THE WOVEN TALE PRESS - Jen Bradley Interview
APE DRAWING PROJECT FILM - Humans at the Zoo by Kate Common www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-bxy2P3llw