Renowned New York City-based taxidermy artist Kate Clark, skillfully weaves a narrative of interconnectedness between humans and the animal kingdom through her captivating sculptures. Clark crafts hybrid beings with human faces and animal bodies, transcending the boundaries of traditional taxidermy, which in turn forms a profound connection to nature and advocates for conservation, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Life on Land.
Clark's unique approach to taxidermy goes beyond the conventional; she breathes life into her creations by using damaged animal hides with bullet holes and burn marks that are usually deemed defunct. In doing so, she transforms imperfections into poignant elements that celebrate the resilience of nature. By repurposing these hides, Clark not only pays homage to the beauty of the animal kingdom but also highlights the impact of human activities on wildlife and how, even after their deaths, humankind still determines their value based on whether or not they can bring benefits to humankind.
But what clearly sets her taxidermy sculptures apart are the distinctive human-like faces adorning the animal bodies. Through this amalgamation, Clark emphasizes the importance of communication between humankind and wildlife, particularly through imagined facial expressions. By granting animals "readable" human features, Clark breaks down the language barrier between humans and the animal kingdom, fostering a stronger understanding and connection.
In her 2010 exhibit at the Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama, Clark affirmed that her artistic endeavours extended beyond shock value and curiosity. The exhibit’s title, Give and Take, encouraged viewers to delve into the deeper meaning of her work, where the juxtaposition of human and animal elements prompted introspection about the viewer’s relationship with the natural world. She prompts audiences to contemplate how modern society affects wildlife, encouraging reflection on the compromises and mutual benefits highlighted in the exhibit. The intention is to inspire individual viewers to take proactive measures for the well-being of the animals depicted.
Kate Clark's sculptures evoke an instinctive and primal reaction, urging viewers to examine their humanity. By fusing human and animal features, she also navigates the complexities of identity, gender, and ethnicity. The hybridization of these forms prompts contemplation on her viewers’ shared existence within the animal kingdom, emphasizing both differences and commonalities between not only wildlife and human kind, but also human kind with human kind. Emphasizing how similar humankind from different backgrounds are once markers of gender, race, and ethnicity are taken away.
In her artistic process, Clark intentionally leaves traces of the animal pelt’s transformation, her process, visible to the viewer. By using real animal pelts and leaving the silver tacks holding the leather on their faces visible, she presents a tangible connection between human activity and the natural world. This transparency underscores the artifice of her work, inviting viewers to witness the meticulous craftsmanship and challenge preconceived notions of beauty.
Kate Clark's sculptures serve as powerful ambassadors for wildlife. Through her art, she champions conservation, builds empathy by bridging the gap between humans and animals, and fosters environmentalism. By creating sculptures that transcend the boundaries of traditional taxidermy, Clark prompts viewers to recognize the urgency of preserving wildlife and embracing a harmonious coexistence with the natural world. Her work stands as a testament to the beauty and fragility of life on land, urging us all to be stewards of our planet and its diverse inhabitants.