By Nava Atlas
New Paltz, New York: Amberwood Press, 2014. Edition of 200.
11 x 14"; 18 pages Digital offset. Spiral bound with pictorial laminated covers.
Nava Atlas: "When I began working on Deconstructing Elsie, my purpose was to create a visual exploration of the dark side of the dairy industry in a nutshell, from the heartbreaking abuse of cows (as well as the discarded calves that become veal) to pollution of soil and water, dissemination of false information, and much more in between. What I didn't expect was to find such a huge intersection between the stark facts about Big Dairy and ideas about oppression as they pertain to patriarchy and misogyny. Altering midcentury Elsie the Cow advertisements seemed a perfect vehicle for presenting the disturbing themes in these intertwined subjects with a bit of levity.
"In the preface of the feminist classic, The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams writes, 'What, or precisely who, we eat is determined by the patriarchal politics of our culture, and that the meanings attached to meat eating include meanings clustered around virility.' The Elsie ads make this concept almost glaringly obvious. Elsie's 'husband,' Elmer the bull, constantly bellows at and belittles her with searing sarcasm. And she, representing the accommodating housewife trope, seeks only to please and placate.
"Deconstructing Elsie weaves health, environmental, political, and ethical issues particular to the dairy industry with notions of gender and animal oppression and of male dominance. This artist's book, along with a related wall installation, will be part of a 2015 exhibition at the National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles titled 'The Art of the Animal: 14 Women Artists Explore the Sexual Politics of Meat.' The exhibit will be accompanied by a book of the same name and is expected to travel."