Statement

 

The classical greek image of the mythological chimera was that of a monstrous, female, fire-breathing creature: an incongruous mixture of the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a dragon. Humankind has imagined and portrayed fantastical creatures since the beginning of time. But today this ancient myth exists in biotechnologically engineered forms. The current scientific definition of ‘chimera’ is any organism composed of cells derived from at least two genetically different zygotes. Translation: featherless chickens (bred for ease of production); mice with human brain cells; hybridized creatures like the geep (sheep+goat), liger (lion+tiger), beefalo (buffalo+cow), and donkra (donkey+zebra). Most recently, the world’s first primate chimeras have emerged, created from several different species of monkey embryos. Human/animal chimeras are next.

 

My current body of work is inspired by these modern-day chimeras, however I pick up where science leaves off, fusing the animal with the human. Details and craftsmanship are key elements in my work, as I seek to create seamless, lifelike forms. I have cast, for example, the bodies of a raw chicken and a human doll baby in resin, taking pains to unify the seemingly ‘separate’ elements into plausible whole. Often, my creatures sport weird, disturbing, or unexpectedly sexy body parts. I have mixed the body of a giraffe with the cast head of a female mannequin, her face “made up” with false eyelashes and her mouth filled with acrylic casts of my own teeth. If viewers look into the mirrored tiles that cover the plinth on which she stands, they will see a reflection of the human vagina I placed on her underbelly. Overall, my hybrid creatures are vulnerable, whimsical, and can act as lighting rods for the viewer’s catharsis. Although grotesque, they appear utterly real. Questions seem to issue from their parted lips: “if I could talk, what would I say?” “Are you, as humans, ready to listen?”

 

Working for so many years with hybrid forms has helped me see myself as a mixture: mother/professional artist; instinctive animal/wise woman; healer/sufferer. I’ve learned a great deal about humanity in adopting the part-beast as my own. This work has taught me that to be fully human is to be fullychimera, a verb, a goal towards which we must all aspire rather than a static state of entitlement. Animals, driven by instinct, teach us to trust ourinner natures.

EK

© 2020 Jamie Lehrhoff Levine. All Rights Reseved

© 2023 by EK. All rights reserved.

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