When people are asked to describe taxidermy, art is an adjective that is probably furthest away from their minds, yet that is exactly what it is. By definition, it is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals with lifelike effect. However, it is an art that only a select few would truly admire and appreciate. Museum directors and trophy hunters come to mind.
However, the art of taxidermy is getting a twist thanks to Kate Clark. She is creating a menagerie of animals, but she is giving them a feature they would never have in nature: a human face.
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According to Kate Clark’s official website, she is first and foremost a sculptor hailing from Brooklyn, New York City. She just so happens to sculpt pieces of art in which a human face is synthesized with the body of an animal. As a result, taxidermy comes into play. There is a reason to Clark’s methods, which is reflected in her website’s written statement.
“When encountering my sculptures, the viewer is faced with a lifelike fusion of human and animal that investigates which characteristics separate us within the animal kingdom, and more importantly, which unite us. The sculptures visually, emotionally and intellectually explore this overlap that exists across cultures, along histories, and within societies.”
Summarized, Kate Clark is trying to get the viewer to empathize a link, a connection with animals through empathetic curiosity and discomfort. Apparently, these are the emotions Kathryn Carlson experienced with her in-depth article for National Geographic. Carlson describes her experiences visiting Kate Clark’s studio for the first time, saying she felt chills run up her spine from disgust as she stared into each animal’s human-like face.
Kate Clark believes humanity is so separated, they no longer have a reason to connect with wild animals anymore, calling ourselves the “other.” As a matter of fact, Clark truly plays to how out-of-touch we are by purposely interchanging features of one specific gender of a specific animal species with the face of the opposite gender. For example, if an animal were to clearly have a woman’s face, she will add antlers. For those who do not know, antlers are a body part seen only on male animals.
Presently, Kate Clark’s art is internationally popular invoking different reactions from many people. Some have called her pieces boring, political, and annoyingly derivative. Others, on the other hand, say they are exotic and unique. Ultimately, Clark hopes her message behind will always get across.
[Photo by Nicole Cordier/Kate Clark]