Amy Guidry - Vegan Artist: A Profile
|Inside Out, 2020 acrylic on canvas, 12" x 12"|
Copyright Amy Guidry
Where Art and Ethics Intersect:
A Profile of Vegan Artist
A Profile of Vegan Artist
By Rebeca Oliveira
Artist Amy Guidry talks about her own inspirations for maintaining a vegan lifestyle and how they intersect with her creative expression.
Amy Guidry grew up in Lousiana and studied visual art at Loyola University in New Orleans. Upon graduation, Guidry won the prestigious Loyola University Art Scholarship. She works primarily in paint on canvas, and her work has been exhibited across the United States, notably at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Brandeis University, and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana. Guidry’s work is part of a number of private and public collections, and her paintings have been featured in professional publications. Guy Sangster Adams, editor of the UK publication Plectrum, writes: “forget mere high definition, the exceptionality of Amy Guidry’s mix of photorealism and surrealism creates a fantastic heightened definition that presents a hyperreality that forces one to address and, with hope, redress our reality.”
Although Guidry only made the switch to veganism after graduating college, the seeds of her concern for animal welfare were sown much earlier than that. She says, “As a child I was always drawing animals. When I wasn’t drawing, I was spending time with my dog or in the woods next door. There were fragments of influence throughout my childhood and adolescence that perhaps put me on the path toward veganism. I was always borrowing nature books from the school library, so I became aware of extinction, poaching, and fur trapping at an early age. As a result, I believed that if I created beautiful artwork of animals then maybe people would care about them as much as I did.”
Guidry was inspired to make the switch to vegetarianism in college when, while doing research for an Ethical Biology class, she happened upon books about slaughterhouses and agribusiness. Appalled and finding nothing elsewhere to refute the information she had discovered, she became a vegetarian and maintained that diet for three years. After doing more research on the matter, she slowly cut out dairy products and transitioned into a completely vegan diet and lifestyle, a decision she made completely on her own, she says, living in a new city with no vegan friends or support system.
When asked about her guiding principles and inspirations, whether scientific, philosophical, or religious, for becoming vegan, Guidry states: “I became a vegan first and foremost for the animals. The health benefits were serendipitous and fell in line with my already active lifestyle. I was already vegan by the time I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, so while it didn’t beget my decision it certainly supported my beliefs.
When she was doing research for her Ethical Biology class, Guidry decided she wanted to “discuss the moral implications of animal testing. At that time, I was under the impression that animal testing was unnecessary and cruel while eating animals was unavoidable and therefore necessary. I also eased my guilt by believing that the entire animal was being used so they did not die in vain. I was unaware of their treatment, their living conditions, and the ways they were killed. Like many people, I also thought that meat equaled health.” Later, Guidry relates how discovery books on animal agriculture awakened her realization to the cruelty of factory farming, to say nothing about how the animals were pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones that had adverse effects on human health.
So for Guidry, the choice to become vegan was an ethical one, though information about factory farms and animal cruelty were part of her decision.To those who may be considering veganism but find the idea of such a change to be daunting, Guidry claims that the vegan way of life is much simpler to follow than one may think, and comes with a massive online support group. Although she became vegan before the existence of social media, she acknowledges that the presence of an online vegan community, evidenced, for example, in Literary Veganism, only affirms her choice.
Guidry is a member of vegan groups on Facebook and follows various vegan and/or environmental groups on all social platforms. She finds them to be beneficial even now as a veteran vegan. She notes, “I get a lot of new recipes via social media and the news articles concerning climate change or animal welfare often inspire my paintings. I have been vegan long enough to see the benefits of it, so I know firsthand what it can do, but certainly the social media pages devoted to environmental or animal welfare news affirm my decision.”
This new accessibility, according to Guidry, makes the vegan choice much easier to make, since today there are many cookbooks and restaurants devoted to veganism or allow for vegan options. Lack of availability is no longer a problem, for many people. She maintains, “You no longer need to go to a health food store to find vegan cheese or veggie burgers. I was a diehard fan of dairy and thought that would be impossible to forgo, but the vegan alternatives are phenomenal.”
According to Guidry, veganism helps people see the cognitive disconnect between their love of animals and their food choices. Many people claim to love animals, including those that are often eaten, yet somehow compartmentalize that compassion when eating a hamburger. She says, “Animals are seen as a means to an end. They are distilled down to nothing but parts: head, rump, wing, breast. They are renamed. Cows become beef, chickens become poultry, pigs become pork, and fish become seafood. Even if you cook them yourself, they are packaged in plastic beyond recognition. Occasionally feet or heads may be on display like preserved remnants belonging to a mad scientist while hypocrites look in disgust at these reminders of the innocent lives that were stolen. They are unaccustomed to being faced with the truth.” Guidry goes on to say how we often welcome animals into our homes and mourn their loss while others are destined to become our food. Yet, she adds, “If other cultures eat what we consider pets, they are considered cruel while we blithely grind up ‘useless’ male chicks.”
Following the thinking of many vegans, Guidry believes that there is no reason any animal should suffer a miserable life just so someone can eat. As she sees it, “We have an inordinate amount of food choices including a vast number of ways to obtain such food whether we grow it or prepare it ourselves, or have it made by someone else. With so many options and availability, what could possibly be the excuse that we must eat animals or animal by-products? We have a choice, animals do not.” So, in our choice to eat animals, we ultimately dictate a life of cruelty and slaughter for them against their will.
For Guidry, veganism has brought these issues of animal suffering to the foreground. While she relied on books as it was still in the early days of the internet, photos did depict unspeakable acts of cruelty and cramped, squalid conditions. “These are not one-off situations,” she says. “They are common practice. The idyllic farm where animals are loved and grow old before becoming food is a fallacy.”
For Guidry, if we are aware of this cruelty, we can change the fate of these sentient beings with our wallets, and she drives home this point with stark imagery. “Cows wouldn’t be forced to stand in their own excrement in confined spaces only to be shot in the head with a bolt gun, often incorrectly, if there is no consumer demand for beef. There would be no fear of pig excrement contaminating our water if there is no consumer demand for pork. Foxes wouldn’t be beaten to death if there is no consumer demand for fur. Rabbits wouldn’t be stuck in cages and doused with acidic chemicals, living a life of absolute hell if there is no consumer demand for products tested on animals.”
There are other ill-effects of factory farming, many of which go unnoticed, says Guidry, like the clear-cutting of rainforests, methane pollution, water usage, and fuel for transport. In a nutshell, “Factory farming is one of the worst culprits of climate change. To abstain from eating animals or animal by-products would significantly reduce the ozone-damaging methane and increase oxygen while reducing carbon dioxide through undisturbed forests. A vegan diet requires significantly less land, water, and fuel and is therefore less of a drain on our planet.”
These examples offered by Guidry speak to the importance of veganism. Not only does veganism have an impact on the lives of other animals, but it can improve the health of our environment and in turn, our own health, as well as ensure that there is a viable planet for future generations, she says. Other than what’s on her dinner plate, Guidry practices veganism in the larger world by avoiding all animal products: her choice of clothing, art supplies, and even furniture. She also avoids events that use animals as entertainment, such as circuses.
On a final note, Guidry says she’d encourage anyone to go vegan for ethical reasons as well as a means of reducing our impact on the planet. She points out that, “As it stands, our way of life is without any doubt, unsustainable. The consumption of animals and animal by-products is far more damaging to our planet than a vegan diet and is one of the largest contributors to climate change. It’s also one of the easiest changes to make because it involves our food choice and can be done right now. While I am not one to proselytize, I do think it is of the utmost importance that we all strive to move toward a vegan lifestyle. Our planet and our future are at stake.”
Readers can learn more about Amy Guidry and sample some of her art by visiting her website, here: https://www.amyguidry.com/
Image information: “Inside Out” 2020, acrylic on canvas, 12” x 12”
Copyright©2020 by Amy Guidry – All Rights Reserved