The Guardian

by Barry Herem
1989, 19 X 46 inches
signed, titled and numbered to 195
in the regular edition,
printed on 100% cotton rag stock
archival quality.
Guardian is both an art and an environmental statement. Its original reference was to the controversy surrounding preservation of the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest, a bird which can survive only in old growth forests thus pitting its preservation and that of old growth forests against the forest industry. This work is on the side of the birds and the woods. It has also become a symbol of species preservation generally.
In typical Northwest Coast Indian graphic design style “Guardian” represents a stylized and transforming, half-human, half-owl creature capable of taking both human and bird form, the border between man and beast being highly permeable and imaginary: our fates are linked. As is often true of this stylized system of portraiture there is virtually no attempt at actual realism.
The human face is transformed by lips turning into a beak. Above, the spotted tail stands over a pair of spread wings. Human hands with an overlay of trees extend in a questioning and vulnerable gesture. More of the forest is daintily held aloft by the talons of the owl which emerge from its bent arm/wings.

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