The Art of Human Flesh
The human body has served as a muse for artists since the beginning. Renaissance paintings, modern photography, film, etc. have all celebrated the incredible anatomy we’re all too familiar with, depicting it with honesty and grace, but every once in a while the inspiration takes a different approach. Andrea Hasler, a Swiss artist, utilizes the human flesh in a way that is far more…disturbing.
The grotesque sculptures, completely made of wax, conjure ideas akin to the butcher table: beat up, lumpy, and bloody. It’s not a romantic glorification by any means. Having used this medium for several projects, Hasler has explored the various ways she can use it to communicate her thoughts.
In one of her latest installations, she creates an atmosphere similar to a high-end boutique, with sharp aesthetics and clean lines. The juxtaposition of her flesh creations in glass cases, where the luxury goods typically reside, simultaneously pulls in and repulses the viewer. Her intention is to study the materialistic nature of our culture and conceptions of needing these unnecessary objects. Though we are trained to believe that these objects will enhance the quality of life, it becomes clear with Hasler’s sculptures that that isn’t the case here.
Another well-known installation, “Embrace the Base,” turns the topic of discussion to nuclear warfare, revolving around a certain peace camp of the 1980s. Instead of her wax creations being molded into handbags, they’re transformed into tents and almost human shapes. Yet, in other installations, Hansler looks at plastic surgery and the desire to manipulate our own bodies. She continually pushes these forms to represent large, abstract ideas.
Hasler isn’t the only one to explore this idea of the human flesh. Jessica Harrison, the artist of the maimed figurines, has also delved into mimicking the skin. Her projects resemble miniature furniture but crafted out of her own flesh-like substance. Contrasting to Hasler’s work, the flesh acts like a cloth, cleanly draped over the forms.
Both of these artists are exploring a medium familiar to any human but are contorting it in an unnatural way to challenge the viewer. This is art for thought’s sake. While it wouldn’t necessarily be attractive in your living room, these works inspire conversation and meditation.