Usually on TreeHugger we showcase artists who in one way or another use recycled materials or prompt us to reflect and contemplate a deeper relationship with nature. But sometimes, there are artists who cross the line, like Miami Beach-based artist Enrique Gomez De Molina, who was recently charged with trafficking in endangered and protected wildlife in order to make his art pieces.
The 48-year-old De Molina (sometimes dubbed the "Franken-artist") is well-known for his work, which employs taxidermic techniques in the assemblage of various animal parts into sculptures into fantastical creatures.
Unfortunately, De Molina was knowingly and illegally smuggling in body parts of endangered species, like Java kingfisher, collared kingfisher, juvenile hawk-eagle, king cobra, pangolin, hornbills, birds of paradise, the skulls of babirusa and orangutans and the carcass remnants of a slow loris and mouse deer.
On the artist's website, there's a bit of irony in how De Molina describes his work:
The impossibility of my sculpture brings me both joy and sadness at the same time. The joy comes from seeing and experiencing the Fantasy of the work but that is coupled with the sadness of the fact that we are destroying all of these beautiful things.
Strange, knowing that as an individual, De Molina could have chosen not to use endangered animals in such a grotesque fashion. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer had this to say on HuffPo:
Trafficking in threatened species, whether for personal profit or under the guise of art, is illegal. We will strictly enforce the laws that protect our environment and our wildlife.
According to authorities, from 2009 to 2011 De Molina was able to illegally import these parts from contacts in Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada and China. Even more chilling is that some of these animals were also alive in the photos the sellers provided before the sale.
De Molina has now been sentenced to 20 months in prison, one year probation and $6,000 in fines, in addition to losing all these prohibited and ill-gotten materials, which were made into artworks that sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
It's indeed a shocking thing that this artist -- who has had his work exhibited in some prominent places before his arrest -- profited so much from the exploitation of these endangered animals. It's almost like aiding and abetting poaching and calling it art -- a big difference from other artists who use animal-derived components, but who take great care to steer clear of endangered species and not harm any animal in order to make great work.
See and judge for yourself: there is more of De Molina's work here.