This artist is a heavyweight on the Finnish art scene – weighing in at over half a ton (nearly 500 kg)
Artists usually like to attend the opening of their exhibitions but the artist behind “Strong and soft touches” in Helsinki was busy hibernating.
Juuso uses his bear body, especially his paws, as paintbrushes.
“We just leave paint for him, some plywood and paper … If we ask him to do it, he doesn’t do anything. He does all the work in his own time, when he’s alone, sitting and moving his legs on the paper,” said Pasi Jantti, one of his keepers.
Juuso was raised by Sulo Karjalainen and Pasi Jäntti since he was a bear cub at the Finnish Kuusamo Predator Centre, a shelter for orphaned animals.
The color vision of bears has traditionally been considered poor, but according to Jäntti, Juuso confounds these claims. He favors blue and red, the keeper said, adding that the paints used posed no health risk to the bear.
“Blue might bear a resemblance to bilberries. Red could be lingonberry”, ponders Jäntti.
His artistic bearing was discovered by accident.
“Juuso got some paint in his paws and started to make marks with them. We noticed that he liked it,” Jantti said.
Some of the paintings still feature bits of Juuso’s fur.
In the 1950’s, Baltimore Museum of Art had bought Willem de Kooning’s abstract painting Backyard on Tenth Street. The director of the Baltimore Zoo at the time, Arthur R. Watson, said that even Betsy, the zoo’s newest chimpanzee, could paint better.
No sooner said than done. Betsy was brought finger paints and it started painting, albeit it always got bored after finishing two paintings. The chimp’s paintings sold well and in the end, it earned more than many artists of the time.
Congo the chimp was renowned for its paintings around the same time in the 1950’s. Congo, who lived in the London Zoo, was said to understand the composition and balance of color in its paintings. It was even said that it made progress in the course of years. Unlike Betsy, Congo could concentrate on painting for longer times.
Interested in buying a Jusso? You’ll have to wait until next spring, when the bear awakens from hibernation, to add a new Juuso to your collection.
“I think that we [will] make the art in May, when the sun is shining and the snows have melted away,” Jäntti said.
During the exhibition, 15 works of art were sold for approximately $9,000. The money will be used to make a documentary about bears.
Fair bear enough.