Touchstone Gallery Presents Before They Are Gone by Leslie Johnston

By Editorial Team on January 6, 2016

Fri, 08 January 2016 - Mon, 08 February 2016

Photo courtesy of Touchstone Gallery.
Photo courtesy of Touchstone Gallery.


Opening Reception: Friday, January 8 from 6pm to 8:30pm


Touchstone Gallery Member Artists Group Show

“Before They Are Gone” by Leslie Johnston
A mixed media installation of over 2,500 ceramic art pieces depicting the average number of African elephants killed per month in recent years. Ceramic was selected to represent the elephants and their vital role within Africa’s ecosystems. Each ceramic piece was formed carefully by hand, textured, and glazed or painted to represent elephant skin and ivory.

Africa’s elephant population estimated around 26 million elephants in 1800 has been reduced to as few as 400,000-500,000 today. Throughout human history, the desire for products, including jewelry, piano keys, religious art objects, decorative carvings, and Japanese hanko name seals, made from ivory has never diminished, resulting in the dramatic reduction in elephant numbers. In the 1970s and 1980s, elephant poaching reached one of its highest levels due to the demand in a growing market in Europe, the US and Japan. In response, the international trade in elephant ivory was banned by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989. This action led to a rebound in population growth to about 1 million over the next 10 year period. In 1999 and 2008, due to pressure from countries in Asia and southern Africa, CITES allowed two sanctioned sales of ivory. Unfortunately, the sanctioning of “legally traded” ivory resulted in an illegal market in ivory to flourish.

Currently, elephant poaching is at its highest level in decades with more than 100,000 elephants poached from 2010 through 2012. At this rate, elephants are being killed faster than they can reproduce and it is estimated that many elephant populations could disappear in 10 years.

The United States is the second-largest market for ivory in the world after China. The economic rise in China has enabled millions of Chinese to purchased ivory as a status symbol which has exponentially increased the global demand for ivory. Recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, the United States and China have recently committed to take positive measures to address this global challenge. Both countries commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.

Although international attention is focused on African elephants, illegal killing of Asian elephants poses a serious threat to their survival. Today, there are no reliable estimates of the number of Asian elephants being killed. Elephants are not the only species that are being driven to the edge of extinction to satisfy human desires.

  • Fifty percent of the sale proceeds will be donated to support anti-poaching efforts in Africa and Asia.

Johnston would like to thank Blair Meerfeld, Kirke Herbertson, Daiva Balkus and the entire kiln team at the Art League’s Ceramics Department for their support, guidance and help in creating the ceramic pieces.

Gallery Hours:

  • Wednesday – Friday: 12pm to 6pm
  • Saturday – Sunday: 12pm to 5pm

Touchstone Gallery is located at 901 New York Ave. NW. Please see the gallery’s website for additional information.