Chimp Art

The Artist Spent Most of Her Life in a Research Facility

I have recently acquired a painting created by a chimpanzee. I was at an event where there were many pieces painted by several chimpanzees but I was drawn to only one artist. Let’s call her Gloria. In every one of her paintings I noticed what looked like a chimpanzee. I called the head of the rescue facility over to show her. As I pointed, she gasped, held her hands to her checks, and said, “Oh my god. You’re freaking me out.” In the painting I received, the chimpanzee looks young and appears to be watching something with a lot of chaos. There is a lot of red in the picture. It makes me sad to look at it.

Laura Stinchfield

Gloria has spent must of her life at a research facility. There she was taught sign language. It is unclear if she was used for HIV or hepatitis experiments. Many chimpanzee artists prefer to do their artwork at ground level. Not Gloria. She takes her painting supplies to a high wooden platform. She insists on being given juice in exchange for her artwork.

Here I ask Gloria to tell me about her self:

Gloria – chimpanzee: “When I was a baby I was taken away from my mommy and put in a bag that was tight around my body. I saw my mommy and most of my group get murdered. I remember blood and the screams. People are scary.”

Laura – Pet Psychic: “Are you still scared of people?”

Gloria: “People teach me things and they let me be. They used to hurt me and keep me in a cage. But now people let me be in trees and feed me good fruits. Before I just got a mush.”

Laura: “How did they hurt you?”

Gloria: “They would stun me with an electric shocker if I wanted to run and swing. They would give me shots that made me tired and make me see things. Then they would teach me language but did not let me learn what I wanted to learn.”

Laura: “What did you want to learn?”

Gloria: “I wanted to learn banana and I wanted to learn play and I wanted to learn where is the forest I grew up in.”

Laura: “Do you know that the forest is very far away and you can never go back there? Do you know people love and care for you and that is why you are at this sanctuary?”

Gloria: “I know people feel guilt and want us to be able to swing and climb.”

Laura: “What is guilt?”

Gloria: “Guilt is when someone turns dark because they harmed another and they want to be light again.”

Laura: “Maybe even guilty that someone else harmed you. Because not all people with you now harmed you.”

Gloria: “Everyone is connected. Everyone responsible.”

Laura: “Does painting help you?”

Gloria: “Painting makes my sadness come alive and then gone. Painting makes my anger look colorful and then it leaves me.”

Laura: “Do you ever paint happy things?”

Gloria: “I’ve painted my friendships.”

Laura: “With people or chimpanzees?”

Gloria: “With chimpanzees. Chimpanzees and people can’t be friends.”

Laura: “You can trust the people around you now. You can be friends with them. They are safe.”

Gloria: “People kill and hurt.”

Laura: “Not all people. Many people are very sad about what happened to you.”

Gloria: “Sad?”

Laura: “Yes, and angry. Many people are sad and angry at what happened to you. That is why they try to give you a nice place to live.”

Gloria: “People sad for chimps?”

Laura: “Yes.”

(Gloria is silent.)

Laura: “What do you want to tell people?”

Gloria: “There may be bad chimps in the wild but they are separate from the good chimps. People groups mix good and bad people. That is confusing. People do not notice good vs. bad? Bad is not allowed with good in nature. People wear clothes and have made my friends wear clothes. Clothes hurt chimps’ skin – scratches. Chimps need nature medicine. Many chimps are sick and can’t find medicine in nature (many chimps have been used in HIV and hepatitis experiments). People sad for chimps?”


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