Urgent Museum Notice

Image for Caution: Beware The Boundaries Of Beasties

Caution: Beware the Boundaries of Beasties

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight

Patricia Piccinini’s The Stags is currently on view in NMWA’s summer exhibition Super Natural. In sleek and shimmering fiberglass, the two large sculptural pieces of The Stags combine characteristics of Vespas and fighting deer. Although Piccinini has created other works with auto-inspired elements, many of the Australian artist’s works depart from this style. Piccinini’s other sculptures typically use silicon and hair to create humanoid creatures with convincingly realistic bodies.
Together, these two distinct styles tell the story of mankind’s evolving scientific creations in both the “biosphere” and the “autosphere.” These different mediums both allow Piccinini to explore the complex intersection of natural and artificial elements—evoking wonder as well as fear at their possibly detrimental consequences.

Patricia Piccinini, The Stags, 2008; Fiberglass, automotive paint, leather, steel, plastic, and rubber, 69 ¾ x 72 x 40 ¼ in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.; Photograph by Graham Baring; On view in Super Natural
Patricia Piccinini, The Stags, 2008; Fiberglass, automotive paint, leather, steel, plastic, and rubber, 69 3/4 x 72 x 40 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.; Photograph by Graham Baring; On view in Super Natural

Piccinini’s automotive aesthetic incorporates biomorphic curves, contours, and dips to construct animal-automobile hybrids. She constructs creatures ranging from stags to Cyclepups and Truck Babies—what she imagines baby Vespas or semi-trucks would look like if vehicles could reproduce. Because these objects seem cute and harmless, the viewer doesn’t associate them with the negative characteristics of automobiles, inherent in industry and pollution. In a quickly advancing scientific world, technology becomes more sentient and advanced. Piccinini’s art cautions against unbridled enthusiasm for technological innovation, while also reveling in the wonders of nature.

2015-07-09 15_53_41-Slobogin Blog Post #4 (2) [Read-Only] [Compatibility Mode] - Word
Patricia Piccinini’s The Student (right) and car nuggets in production (left)

Her humanoid sculptures also explore the consequences of progress—this time in the field of genetic manipulation. Sculptures like Big Mother and The Young Family convey what future scientists could create by combining human and animal genes. Because of their exceptionally realistic and somewhat human appearance, these sculptures elicit emotional responses.
The backstories of these works are full of trauma and confusion. Piccinini ponders where these fabricated sentient creatures would fit into the world if they became realities. She doubts that society’s ability to accept new and different creatures could keep pace with science’s ability to create them.
Piccinini’s art explores boundaries between the realms of human and machine as well as human and animal. She emphasizes the rapid evolution of technologically and genetically modified “things.” Are humans able to coexist and accept creations as creatures? Does society have enough foresight into the possible consequences of introducing hybrids? The questions Piccinini raises are acutely applicable to today’s world. She posits these questions with her technological and biological work, leaving the answers open to uncertainty and contemplation.

Related Posts

  • Director’s Desk: Editing for Equity

    Posted: Mar 04, 2021 in Director's Desk
    Join us for our next Wikipedia Edit-a-thon this Saturday, March 6, when we will improve or create entries for women artists of African descent whose work is in NMWA’s collection.
    A woman with ombré dreadlocks sits at a table working on her laptop. Two other women are doing the same thing at different tables directly behind and in front of the woman.
    Blog Category:  Director's Desk
  • Now Open—Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend

    Posted: Mar 03, 2021 in NMWA Exhibitions
    This midcareer survey features approximately 100 of Clark's mixed-media works that probe identity and visibility, appraise the force of the African Diaspora, and redress history.
    Two head caps made of small, blue glass beads rest on two black mannequin heads. The two caps are connected at the tops by a beaded chain. The left cap is made of darker blue beads and the right cap is made of lighter blue beads. The chain combines both shades.
    Blog Category:  NMWA Exhibitions
  • Women to Watch 2020: Georgia Russell

    Posted: Mar 01, 2021 in Artist Spotlight
    Learn about artist Georgia Russell's process and work, which was featured in Paper Routes, the latest installment of NMWA's Women to Watch exhibition series.
    A rectangular paper work in a plexiglass box that shows thousands of slashes through the work to create waves and shadows throughout the surface. The color shifts from purple at the top to blue to red at the bottom.
    Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight