A Zoological Fantasy-Maryann Held by Jason Collins

orange and white seashell on white surface

The Philadelphia-based artist Maryann Held focuses on zoology and botanist themes. The highly detailed animals and plant life follows the classic look of scientific papers but with a twist. The dark, surreal background with brightly colored central focus, the animals, in her artwork are naturalistic but with a mythical finish to them. 

The artist has very little information on herself or her artwork online. Perhaps this is because she wants the audience to interpret the sepulchral art pieces themselves and find the deeper meaning that resonates with them. Below we will take a look at some of her art pieces and illustrations.


Memento by Maryann Held is an art piece done in acrylic on a color board. The art piece centers on a small black bird with red and white accents that are wrapped up in red string/rope. The rest of the illustration consists of brightly colored leaves. 

In the top left corner, there is a bee, and parallel to it, in the bottom right corner, there is another bee. The bee in the bottom right corner has its wings open, yet the bee in the left has its wings closed. This creates a border, a clear opening and closure between the bird.

The tied-up bird can be interpreted as a strong statement on nature/wildlife being strangled by the industrial march of humanity. The eye of the bird is also gray and blank, which could mean that the bird is dead. The vibrant colors against the haunting theme of the illustration can be seen as a contrasting idea. The vibrant colors try to hide the darker tones of the art. This is the same as how humanity tries to hide that we are killing the world behind fake promises and PR stunts of saving it. 

The Saint

The Saint by Maryann Held is a rather dark illustration of a fox and plants with a dark blue background. The artwork is made up of a fox with three eyes and a snake in its mouth. The snake is also wrapped around the body of the fox.

Surrounding the fox and snake, the artwork has ornate leaves and flowers, some with eyes. The colors of the plant life are very neutral and bland, as if the color has been drained. The artwork also has three moths that are surrounding the fox.

The fox’s fur detail is classical, with an almost photographic art style; however the fox’s front paws are actually fur-covered human hands. The snake’s detail is also photorealistic. The fox’s face is surrounded by gold and an ornate circle. The gold circle can be seen as a representation of an angel or angelic figure, and the snake represents evil, like from the Adam and Eve bible story.

The middle eye of the fox can also be seen as part of the third eye in many religions. It represents a way of looking into the soul of someone. Perhaps the artist is trying to hint at something deeper. One could say that the fox may be representing the role in which religion or spirituality tries to help rid the evil that is found in the world today. Another possible interpretation is the theme of judgment against humanity, judgment at how humans have treated nature. This can all be seen by the religious themes carried throughout her artwork.  
If you would like to view more of Maryann Helds art pieces, you can find them on her website or her Instagram page.

Jason Collins is a freelance writer, epicure, and lover of all things human expression. While he has not had the opportunity to go to the Louvre in-person he has taken more virtual tours than he would care to remember or mention. When he is not out getting lost somewhere in the desert of Nevada he spends most of his time with his two beagles Max and Sherry.

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