Local artist using Ellen DeGeneres portrait as a face for pro seal hunt

Fair is fair, but ignorance isn’t: Rodney Mercer

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on March 25, 2014

Local artist Rodney Mercer created this portrait of Ellen DeGeneres out of seal pelt. — Star photo by Cory Hurley

Newfoundland and Labrador artist Rodney Mercer is looking to put a different face on the seal hunt.

Ironically, it is the same face — Ellen DeGeneres’ — that was recently used in a way that shed more light on the opposition to the commercial hunt in this province.

The Hollywood star and daytime television host tweeted a “selfie” during the Oscars, which became the most retweeted picture in the life of Twitter. In conjunction with a Samsung hashtag, the electronics company donated a dollar to charity for every one of the more than three million retweets.

DeGeneres has directed $1.5 million to the Humane Society of the United States — a major opponent to the Canadian seal hunt. DeGeneres, much like a number of celebrities around the world, is no stranger to the anti-seal hunt cause. Her message can be found on her website, which contains a number of irregularities, according to Mercer.

That is what irked the visual artist about the entire ordeal.

“I think she did have good intentions, but I don’t think she realizes what she is saying is very far from the truth,” Mercer said.

On DeGeneres’ website, it states, “Seal hunting is one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government. Canada is allowing the slaughter of a record number of seals in their 2011 hunting season, which is going on right now. The seals are often younger than three months old. This has to stop.”

With DeGeneres using social media and the Internet, combined with the selfie, the artist wanted to come up with a campaign of his own.

Another local artist, Nikki Hollohan, has been using seal pelts to make coffee cup holders. Mercer thought it would be interesting to add DeGeneres’ face to those. Then, he thought a portrait made from a seal pelt would be even better.

A seal pelt, razor blades, and his ample artistic talent later, Ellen DeGeneres now has another sort of selfie — this one in seal fur.

“Is it a ridiculous image and idea? Absolutely,” he said. “It is total sensationalism — as was the publicity stunt at the awards show.”

From an artistic standpoint, Mercer takes pride in the creation. Seal pelts are a traditional medium for art in this province, and this particular pelt originated from the processing plant in Dildo — which is about a kilometre from where he grew up.

While being pro seal hunt, he still respects anybody else’s opinion, he said. His issue is with what he characterizes as false information being publicized.

“Fair is fair, but ignorance isn’t,” he said.

He is pleased with the positive reaction thus far. The importance of the piece is the narrative behind it. It is creating dialogue, he said. His portrait is being passed through social media — Twitter and Facebook — however, has only been retweeted 31 times as of Monday afternoon. With media coverage of his artwork, he believes, it is more far reaching than that.

Whether it will reach DeGeneres, he is not sure. He said some of the retweets and likes have been directed to DeGeneres, but he said they are either being blocked or filtered.

“I don’t expect a Paul McCartney/Danny Williams kind of thing,” he said, referring to the seal hunt debate held on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2008.

Twitter: WS_CoryHurley