As if brought to life from a fairy tale, Kate Clark's lifelike taxidermied animals gaze back at you with human faces. Clark stitches the surreal creatures together like any taxidermist, but has a few quirks that make the art her own: she only works with imperfect, salvaged pelts that would likely be wasted, and patches up their holes—which often occur on their heads—with human faces made of clay.
"The animals I work with are all large mammals, whose faces are human scale or bigger," Clark tells The Creators Project. Working with live models, she sculpts each face and coats it with scraps of animal hide all in one go, then adds the beast's ears and horns to keep it rooted in the animal world. "I leave as much fur and patterning as I can, yet I want the human features to be clear and the skin to read as oily and porous, reflecting our skin."
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Despite the uncanny valley-like effect of her artwork, Clark's stated goal is not to send chills down spines, but to humble humanity as a species. "I want all of my sculptures to appear dignified. The expressions are calm, and I generally have them meet the viewer at eye level, upsetting the hierarchy of man over animal," she explains. "When confronted with the sculptures, the viewer generally has enough curiosity to stay with the work beyond his or her initial reaction. They spend enough time to recognize themselves within the work and find meaning in that connection. I'd like the viewer to recognize that we are part of the animal kingdom and think about what is still primal within us."
This raises the question of how effective promoting empathy for the animal kingdom can be when hunted animal pelts are used to do it? Clark assures us, "I realize that using real hide is upsetting to viewers, but for me the transformation of the animal's actual skin is a major part of the discussion. Leather is a very specific material and the way I use it, revealing hair and pores and oils that are just like ours, has a power and a point that would fall short with any other material."
Check out Kate Clark's stuffed sculptures below:
Check out more of Clark's work on her website.