Patricia Piccinini is an artist who creates controversial hyperrealistic sculptures. She was born in Sierra Leone and moved in Australia with her family when she was young. Her works may not be on everyone’s taste, but they are definitely astonishingly realistic and interesting. Piccinini proposes a whole new vision of what the future of the life on Earth might be if we continue to experiment on the human genome. The creatures presented bellow reflect her interests in bioethics, biotechnologies and environment.Enjoy!
1. The Long Awaited
The long awaited tells a story. About innocence, about acceptance and getting used to the fact that the unusual is not necessarily evil. The mermaid-like creature is one of the many creations wearing the Piccinini mark, a human-animal hybrid which looks gentle and human as well as ungraceful and alien.
2. The Litter
Aren’t they adorable? Not entirely human, though not entirely animal either. Patricia Piccinini makes us see the opposition beauty-ugliness in a whole new light. Her hyperrealism is astonishing: it is hard to believe that these aren’t real creatures!
Once again, we witness the controversial interaction between human children and non-human companions. They both seem to find the comfort and safety they need in each other’s arms. This child, symbol of a new generation, is not scared or disgusted by his predecessors’ creation. While shocking for us, it is a peaceful, usual scene for this representative of a new world. In the artist’s vision, the creature is a surrogate mother, a genetically engineered host with pouches on her back, where it is nurturing infants of some Australian endangered species.
4. The Embrace
Here is another example of interaction between humans and “the world they have created”. It is entitled “The Embrace”, but it is only the small creature that seems to hug the much larger human who happened to be in the area when the little monster needed some motherly comfort. The woman seems rather scared and taken by surprise. Patricia Piccinini is forcing us to accept that we must take responsibility for our deeds and if we go on and create genetically engineered species, we must also accept, or “embrace” the result of our actions.
Foundling presents a different kind of baby. The helpless, baby hybrid with huge eyes is so sweet you may even forget it’s not human. The hyperrealism of Patricia Piccinini is truly one of a kind and magnificent.
6. The strength of one arm
According to Patricia herself, The Strength of One Arm is based on a dugong (a fork-tailed manatee) that sailors used to mistake as mermaids. In this picture, the creature is doing acrobatics on a Canadian Mountain Goat. “If it was an adult – we might think of him as a show-off. We’ve always wanted animals to perform for us. It makes us feel a little self conscious.”
7. The big mother
The work entitled ‘the big mother’ is shocking mostly because it features a weird looking female human-animal hybrid and a perfect human baby. The creature is breastfeeding the unknowing newborn, and the image might be repulsive for most of you. However, what is intended here is to accentuate the gentleness, the motherly character and the humanity of these genetically engineered mutants. Jackie Randles summarizes: “By giving her creatures subjectivity and physical features that are recognizably human, Patricia creates emotionally charged scenes that represent familial love, nurturing and caring”.
8. The bodyguard
Part of the exhibition called ‘Nature’s little helpers’ (same as ‘the Surrogate’), the Bodyguard is a fierce looking kind of animal. However, as Patricia Piccinini describes it herself, the Bodyguard is ‘fierce, but not cruel’. She imagined it as a ‘protector’ of an endangered species of birds, the HeHo, which only eats the sap of some gum trees. This creature is intended to keep the HeHo’s predators at distance. Moreover, it has powerful jaws so that it may bite into the trees and cause their sap to run out.
9. The Young Family
According to the artist, this work was asked by different organizations in order to support arguments both for and against genetic manipulation. This is because it reflects a neutral point of view as regards to the subject. While she causes people to start thinking about the fact that these hybrids could exist some day, Patricia Piccinini does not give us any clue regarding her own opinion of whether this could be a bad or a good thing.
10. Still life with stem cells
Patricia Piccinini’s controversial sculptures are wonderful yet grotesque; we know that now. They are also of a stunning hyperrealism which makes them even more impressive. However, the stories they tell are the ones that really strike us. The capacity of gifting each of her sculptures with a story is what makes Piccinini the famous artist she is. The last sculpture presented here is all about transformation and what can humans do with their new acquired capacities. Here is how she explains it: “Stem cells are base cellular matter before it is differentiated into specific kinds of cells like skin, liver, bone or brain. Pure unexpressed potential, they contain the possibility for transformation into anything.[…] As with so much of this biotechnology, the extraordinary has already become the ordinary. The real question is ‘what are we going to do with it’. Still life with Stem Cells is one possible answer.