Mercer’s DeGeneres depiction now hanging at Gitanos’ restaurant

Chris Quigley
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Donna Thistle has bought local artist Rodney Mercer’s portrait of Ellen DeGeneres he made out of seal pelt. It will hang at her business, Gitanos’ Supper Club and Tapas Bar, in the Millbrook Mall.

Rodney Mercer’s “sealfie” of Ellen DeGeneres has found a home.

The seal fur creation can now be seen at Gitanos’ Supper Club and Tapas Bar in the Millbrook Mall, hanging near the entrance of the Donna Thistle-owned establishment.

Mercer envisioned the work as a response to the daytime talk show host’s selfie she tweeted during this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, which became the most retweeted photo in the history of Twitter. Electronics company Samsung donated one dollar to charity for each of the over three-million retweets, $1.5-million of which DeGeneres reportedly donated to the Humane Society of the United States, a major opponent of the Canadian seal hunt.

His cause strikes a chord with Thistle, who has spoken out on the “hypocrisy” of the negativity surrounding the seal hunt for over two decades.

“It’s not that the seal hunt is right or wrong, it’s that the animal rights people are being hypocrites,” she said. “It’s just wrong to be beating up on one particular industry when everything we eat, everything we wear, we’ve got to kill it.

“It’s almost like everything else we eat and raise is hidden away in a barn,” she added. “But the seal hunt is out in full sight, so everyone can pick on it.”

Now, since Friday, the DeGeneres “sealfie” is also in full sight at Gitanos’. For a piece this political and contentious, Thistle said, there was really nowhere else it should be.

“I thought it should go somewhere where everyone could see it and everyone can know what it’s about,” she said. “It’s not a piece that was going to be really easy to have in a home ... it speaks too much.”

Mercer was pleased Thistle purchased the piece because of the increased visibility, not to mention her history with the subject matter itself and with art in general.

But that’s not all.

“I guess, a little selfishly, I can get a chance to see it every now and then,” he said. “Quite often that’s not the case with artwork.”

He estimated about “six or eight” people inquired about purchasing the piece before he sold it to Thistle. Neither the seller or buyer would reveal the financial details of the transaction.

Money, Mercer said, isn’t something that motivates him artistically, but the popularity of the piece is certainly encouraging to him — it has been featured on the Huffington Post website and MacLeans magazine.

“It definitely does put a bit of wind in your sails, that’s for sure,” he said. “I realized many more possibilities for what I can do in the future, using things like the Internet and social media.”

Thistle, meanwhile, is in the process of getting the articles that were published on the piece laminated, so she can put them up next to it, explaining its significance.

She hasn’t gotten any unsolicited comments on it yet, but is quick to point it out to patrons of her restaurant, including a table of five on Tuesday evening that included one woman wearing seal skin boots.

“So I went, ‘Oh, come here, look at this,’ and they really got a hoot out of it,” she said. “They hadn’t seen it anywhere and didn’t know the hoo-ha about it ... they were taken by that.”

Organizations: Supper Club, Samsung, Humane Society of the United States Huffington Post MacLeans magazine

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