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Mad Cow – Billie Grace Lynn

Billie Grace Lynn. Golden Calf, 2008. 120"x38"x108". Bone, Gold Leaf, Aluminum, Horns. Bernice Steinbaum Gallery

Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Wynwood Art District - Miami

October 11 - November 1, 2008

By Arelys Hernández

Anyone who visited the exhibition at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery entitled ”Mad Cow” by Billie Grace Lynn must have felt saturated after seeing so many animal skeletons. He must also have walked out with questions in his mind as to the “totemic” mode of conceiving an oeuvre, and thus establishing a link between natural death and the life of a work of art.

Using osseous tissue as raw material for countless sculptures, and adding meaningful symbols needed to communicate her ideas and values, this artist put us in touch with a personal and unusual “bestiary,” in which the biological and the cosmogonic were combined in a decidedly contemporary aesthetic. Sculptures made out of cow bones collected over the past twenty years, as well as photographs recording moments in which she coated recently-deceased animals with metallic paint -attractive evidence of their transformation into cadavers-, created an atmosphere for rarefied interpretation and reflection on the finiteness and infiniteness of existence. The zoomorphic skeletons displayed quotidian human expressions and habits in their attitudes and demeanors, and even in their objectual transformation (as in Death bed, Crucifixion, Mad Cow Motorcycle.) Humor, strength, pain, ceremony, repose, collapse or permanence - inherent in the “vital adventure”of man in any epoch - appeared as traits transferred onto selected fauna as symbols or metaphors.

By appropriating real anatomic structures, Billie Grace Lynn continues a kind of artistic tradition, which began with the study of cadavers by Renaissance and Baroque creators, which had rare variations of a formal nature in the 20th Century, and even produced conceptualist installations and displays that utilized stuffed animals and bones for different purposes. It coincides with those who today exhibit preserved and hardened, skinned human bodies and cadavers. It also has a certain proximity to artists, such as Damien Hirst, whose dissected animals in formaldehyde with gold, as well as his skeletons and skulls, have garnered extremely high prices.  

“Mad Cow” was a high-quality show which assembled the aesthetic, philosophical, anthropological, theological and ecological concerns of the aforementioned sculptor in a meaningful collection comprised of three-dimensional pieces and photographs. It was surprising to see how Billie Grace was able to integrate apparently contradictory symbols and sentiments (poetry and horror, eschatology and beauty, artifice and nature, fantasy and fact) in her physically static skeletons, which may at times be activated in order to achieve certain implicit “performatics.”

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