Dan Levinson - "Story of A Giant"

Hi my name is Dan Levinson. I’m a visual artist and teacher based in Littleton. Born and raised in Colorado, I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil. Although I love to paint and take photographs, my first love when it comes to artwork is drawing. My art practice is a mix of drawing, painting and mural work. Outside of commercial projects, most of my research involves history. I am interested in re-discovering historical accounts in order to learn and bring insight into our collective past. My hope is that by looking back, we can create a better tomorrow. 

This piece recalls a story of Jumbo, the world’s first animal superstar. Jumbo’s life stirs up many emotions and metaphors for me. This gigantic elephant was celebrated by millions from the 1860’s-1880’s. He was widely celebrated for his size and for representing the image of African Elephants to the rest of the world. He was paraded around major cities of the world, lived in zoo’s, and later would join P.T. Barnum’s circus. Outside of this life of glamor, he lived a lonely life. He was an orphan. His mother was killed when Jumbo was 4. He was removed from his family unit and often cared for in small enclosures. His soft-food diet left him with chronic tooth pain. Later, it was revealed that he suffered a form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. His life was cut short by about 20 years. He had terrible bone, knee and joint health. He suffered from night terrors. He would grind his tusk away on the stone floors of his enclosure. From taking numerous tours over the years, hauling dozens of people on his back, day after day, his health was declining at a rapid rate. This fact, along with the mystery surrounding his premature death provide a fascinating story to me. 

I tried to capture what must have been a painful and traumatized existence in this work. In Jumbo’s gaze, his eyes are shrouded in darkness. I represent Jumbo as the star of the show, a gentle, celebrity figure. However, I wanted to capture a moment of pure sadness, even if it’s overshadowed by the glory surrounding his fame. I think this is a telling metaphor for how society worked in the past and perhaps still operates. I find inspiration in Jumbo’s story. Likewise I find relevance in thinking about humanity’s ongoing, strenuous relationship with the natural world. Jumbo might have just been a sacrificial figure of the past, yet symbolizes the extinction of a natural way of life for wild animals.

Big Draw Colorado
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