My installation Toy with Animals and my mixed media paintings Cluck and Ark grapple with the reduction of animals to toys. As children play with toys that reference animals, they learn to feel empathy for another species. However, this also displaces the animals’ actual context, habitat, agency, and behaviors. Toys reduce animals to a couple key aesthetic features, while also acting as devices for fictitious narratives. To toy with something means to manipulate or handle it and its contexts. A child’s play forms perceptions and misconceptions about animals and their natural contexts that is carried throughinto adulthood. It is troubling that, as adults, animals are still often treated as toys—put where we want, organized, admired when we are in the mood, ignored when we are fixated on something else, and tossed out when we outgrow them.
The installation of Toy with Animals took place in Spring 2018 and was located in an empty storefront on Main St. in Ames, IA.
Currently an MFA candidate at Iowa State University, Anna Segner is a mixed media painter who is dipping toes into installation artwork to communicate ideas about animals' cultural identity, erasing their natural contexts.