Art Lies, Volume 26, Spring 2000 Page: 34
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... and whether
pigs have wings
Susie Kalil: Let's talk about the history behind the pigs-Minnesota
and Artemis. What were the conditions, what stimulated you to tat-
Andy Feehan: I had been doing drawings of animals with wings. I
had a dream about a pig with wings-1 think it was in my senior
year at the University of St. Thomas. I didn't have much theoretical
training to decipher the dream, but Jungian psychology would
explain to some satisfaction that it was an effort to unify opposites.
Dreams are sometimes an attempt to reconcile opposing energies in
your mind or in your life. The pig with wings was probably a sort of
psychological compromise. It struck me as something that was
funny and mythological. So I drew it over and over again. I was
obsessed with it. I had done a drawing of a dog that had belonged
to my parents-a big fat bassett hound called Daedalus Porkus. I
drew him with wings-put wings on his legs, on his ears, on his
back. I had also heard this urban rumor that tattoo artists learned
their skill on pigs. But that was impossible because no pig would sit
still for it. More than likely, they practiced on grapefruits or on them-
selves. I had met Bob Wade during my senior year and we talked
about my idea of finding a pig and actually tattooing it. Wade
became my major advisor in grad school at University of North
Texas in Denton. He embraced the project, since he's always been
interested in new forms of expression. Showed me how to docu-
ment it, how to couch it in the proper language. I read journals on
investigative dermatology, discovering that swine was being used in
burn research. I kept investigating and found out that pig and human
skin are very similar. I heard that miniature pigs were being pro-
duced at a couple of research facilities, including Texas A & M. I
wrote a letter to the chairman of the department of veterinary med-
icine and asked for a pig. I made the mistake of telling him what I
was doing. He wrote back a flaming response-not only could I not
have one of their pigs, but he thought I was crazy. That's pretty much
what I ran into. So I learned not to tell people about my project.
SK: Well, it was outside of what was going on in the art world
at the time.
AF: It was definitely outside of what I knew about. So I was kind of
on my own and had to make it up as I went along. I knew about
some performance art designed to be upsetting. Chris Burden was
doing stuff back then like having himself shot or shooting at air-
planes. Hermann Nitsch, the Austrian artist, was into self-mutilation.
But I was interested in having a pig with wings because it was
absurd. I love animals. I grew up with dogs and cats. My parents had
a dozen of them. I'm not strictly a vegetarian, but close to it. I
haven't eaten pork since I was twenty. I just think that pigs are spe-
cial animals. They're amazingly intelligent. A zillion of them suffer
for our breakfast every day. I don't want to go off on a soapbox about
that, but it occurred to me clearly when I started the project that I
was going to be up against people's ideas regarding cruelty and
humanity. I was up against a lot of angry people. And although their
intentions were good, I was trying to confront people about ideas of
cruelty, kindness, compassion. How to be complacent or not in the
face of the entire world's cruelty. This put it up in your face.
SK: So you were using the pigs to focus on the cruelty they've
incurred and to represent the larger issues of human suffering.
AF: At the time, there were a lot of tattooed people, but it was still a
relatively new experience for everybody. People had no reference
points at all. Most of the time, people responded to the tattooed pigs
with horror. They'd laugh out loud, maybe, then show utter disgust.
It wasn't up to me to decide how people would respond. But I
hoped it would cause people to reconsider how they felt about eat-
ing meat, eating pork. At the store we buy nice little prepared pack-
ages and don't even think about the process or the animals who are
slaughtered-the pain and cruelty involved in producing and pro-
cessing all this food.
SK: Some thirty years later we can look at an image of Artemis and
find her astonishingly beautiful-the way an icon can resonate and
take you to another realm. Something transcendental.
AF: Well, wings by design refer to flight or a transcendental state.
Putting wings on a pig who is such an icon of the earth-I was
happy to produce that sensation. And , of course, I was certainly
considering escape as part of it-the escape of the animal from the
SK: What about the idea of Artemis as transformational sculpture-
that a physical transformation occurred.
AF: Sure-sculpture that is not just an object, but is a subject-a liv-
ing, breathing being that also deals with you, interacts with you.
That was certainly part of it. Minnesota came first while I was in grad
school. He ended up with Stanley Marsh 3. I did Artemis in the '80s.
Wade called me up one day out of the blue and said he was talking
about this pig I did in the '70s to someone. The guy fixed on it and
wanted me to do another one. That's how Artemis came about. I
bought Minnesota from a hog farmer outside of Denton. I bought
Artemis from a hog farmer in Bryan. A couple of vets I talked to gave
me the bum's rush. They thought I was nuts-so did a few tattoo
artists. Tattooists back then were always nervous about being bust-
ed by the health department, so there was a kind of fearfulness. I had
to make friends with vets to get their help. I finally found one who
was intrigued by the project and made sure it would be carried out
in the right way. When we did Artemis in the early '80s, I found
another vet who was a very cool guy-totally professional. We did
it with absolute precision, cleanliness and total absence of cruelty. I
didn't want to make any mistakes.
SK: So transforming Minnesota and Artemis by tattooing wings on
their bodies also excluded them as pork products.
AF: That was absolutely my intention. I wanted to extract them per-
manently from the pig factory. I wanted them to be art. I wanted
them to have an unusual life of luxury, like a pet, like a precious
weird animal in the circus of humanity.
SK: The wings, then, became a form of protection-a protective
device, like armor. It does have the same principle of individuals tat-
tooing their bodies. You become a kind of living sculpture, con-
stantly changing. It also serves as a form of language, identity and
AF: There is a ritualistic aspect to it. Most people's tattoos, at least in
the West, have been kind of hodge podge-isolated images placed
here and there on the body. The Japanese, however, have a very old,
very beautiful aesthetic of tattoos. The Samurai even had a whole
34 ARTLIES SPRING 2000
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Carter, Linda Haag & McNulty, Debbie. Art Lies, Volume 26, Spring 2000, periodical, 2000; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228056/m1/36/: accessed May 8, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .