Pigcasso's masterpieces help fund her animal farm sanctuary.
Move over Piglet, Wilbur and Babe. There’s another pig that has the world going hog wild. She’s more sophisticated than sloppy, lives in a sanctuary instead of a sty, and rather than food scraps stuck on her snout, you’re far more likely to find…paint.
Meet Pigcasso, whose start in life near Cape Town, South Africa, was more gloom than glam. Confined to a gestation crate—a metal cage preventing movement—with no light or mental stimulation, Pigcasso was on course to be killed at just six months old. Then Joanne Lefson, an artist, vegan and animal lover, visited the hog farm where the little pig was held. She decided Pigcasso and her pal Rosie would be the first residents at Farm Sanctuary SA, her new endeavor.
Lefson was already a champion rescuer. She had saved a dog, Oscar, from a kill shelter and traveled the world with him to raise awareness about shelter animal adoption. But she had always had a bigger mission, and when she inherited property near Cape Town, she knew her dream of a home for rescued farm animals could come true.
Wanting the two pigs to be comfortable and happy, Lefson left out several toys to keep them occupied. Pigcasso ate every object in the stall, except a paintbrush Lefson had accidentally left behind. It was the only thing Pigcasso was interested in, so Lefson decided to encourage the budding artist. The hog’s first attempts at painting were rough, but once Lefson adjusted the paintbrush handles for Pigcasso’s mouth, her technique flourished.
Her medium? Brightly colored non-toxic vegan paint. Her style? “She’s an abstract expressionist,” Lefson says. “It’s a human-pig collaboration. I pick the paint colors but don’t touch the canvas.” A snout-tip signature completes the process. Then it’s time for Pigcasso’s favorite snack, caramel popcorn.
Over the past three years the farm sanctuary has welcomed many more residents. “We have 200 chickens and two cows, as well as some sheep and goats. And every one has a story,” Lefson says. The chickens were rescued from industrialized egg farms, where they were kept in iPad-size cages. Now they have much more room to roam.
The same goes for Baloo the cow, who enjoys the sanctuary’s open fields and contributes by “mowing” the lawn. But it’s Pigcasso’s artistic talent that has helped the most with the upkeep of the sanctuary. Her masterpieces are sold at the on-site OINK gallery as well as online. Some have gone for more than $3,000 each. Nissan showcased Pigcasso’s work in an advertising campaign, and Swatch offered a limited-edition Pigcasso watch featuring her signature swishes (it sold out in two hours!). The sales support the sanctuary.
Despite all the fame, the three-year-old artist is happy just being a pig. She is a reminder that animals have feelings, needs and special gifts.
Lefson explains: “I want people to be educated on what’s happening to pigs and other farm animals in our current food-production system. I hope people are inspired to make choices that will create a more compassionate and sustainable world for everyone. Less harm, more art.”
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