Ellen sealskin portrait sold

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Chris Quigley
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Artist pleased it’s prominently displayed in a Corner Brook restaurant

Rodney Mercer’s sealskin portrait of Ellen Degeneres has found a home. His artistic creation is on display at Gitanos’ Supper Club and Tapas Bar in the Millbrook Mall, hanging near the entrance of the establishment owned by Donna Thistle.

Corner Brook artist Rodney Mercer  with his portrait of Ellen DeGeneres that he made out of a seal pelt. — File photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star

Mercer created the artwork in response to the “selfie” group photo the daytime talk show host tweeted during this year’s Academy Awards broadcast — the most retweeted photo in the history of Twitter.

Electronics company Samsung donated $1 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.

Mercer’s portrait of Ellen strikes a chord with Thistle, who calls the negativity surrounding the seal hunt for more than two decades of hypocrisy.

“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.”

The Degeneres “sealfie” has been at Gitanos since Friday. Thistle said as a political statement, it deserves to be on display.

“I thought it should go somewhere where everyone could see it and everyone can know what it’s about,” she said. 

Mercer was pleased Thistle purchased the piece because of the increased visibility it’s now getting. 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 said six or eight people inquired about purchasing the piece before he sold it to Thistle.

Neither seller nor 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 — it has been featured on the Huffington Post website and in Maclean’s 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 articles 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 said she brought it up with some patrons of her restaurant, including a table of five Tuesday evening that included a woman wearing sealskin 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.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Samsung, Humane Society of the United States, Huffington Post

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Western Star

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