Perfect Strangers – Man or Beast?


Surely one of the stranger sights in the Chelsea galleries this month is the running coyote pack in the window of Claire Oliver Gallery. In sculptor Kate Clark’s first New York solo show, she debuts animal portraits with an unnerving twist; her taxidermied bear, cougar, fawn and gazelles have human faces.  Sounds like a recipe for kitsch, but the presence of the bizarre man-beast creatures is arresting.

Clark explains that her work is the opposite of trophy presentations made after a hunt. Rather than man conquering nature, the two have merged. The work has none of the humor of, say, Maurizio Cattelan’s recent untitled sculpture in the New Museum’s show After Nature, for which he mounted the rear end of a horse high up on the wall. But it’s precisely the complexity of each face that saves the work from ending up as a one-liner.

“So many people know so little about the natural world,” Clark says, “that the animals are a symbol of a wild creature and not necessarily a cougar, for example.” Titling the show Perfect Strangers, Clark underlines the alienation between mankind and wild creatures as people and animals increasingly encroach on each other’s territory. The best pieces have an Aslan-like benevolence and restrained power that make it easy to imagine a folklore in which man saves beast or vice versa. But high on their pedestals, Clark keeps them splendidly aloof, all the better to savor their nuanced characters.

Check out my video interview with Clark, in which she explains the pieces’ symbolic content and goes into the nitty gritty of working with such unusual materials.

  1. Lars says:

    Nice to parallel Maurizio Cattelan, if not in After Nature, than in a combined stuffed-horse-body/Hitler-face-feeling.

  2. jay johnson says:

    I your work! I have been crafting clay heads and smaller animal characters with human characteristics (ex. Human with Swine head…Baboon with human like body…) for a while and this is such a wonderful, enlightening and inspiring creative implementation. Very nice work! Thank you for sharing.

  3. I am part pig part man…what a coincidence. I must meet your friends…although they look like the quite types 😉

  4. Pingback: Cherry Coloured» Blog Archive » {artist} kate clark

  5. Sarah says:

    For some reason these remind me of Twilight, and CATS on Broadway. I wasn’t sure what to think at first.. but I think I’ve settled on it’s “BEAST” and very creative and well done. Some of the scars are a bit scary though.
    Art Gallery Scottsdale

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