National Geographic Documentary

An Artists Twist on Taxidermy Blurs the Boundaries of Humanity

Filmmaker Kathryn Carlson filmed in my studio over a 2 month period and edited her film into this documentary that beautifully tells the story of the making of one of my sculptures.

Below are excerpts of Kathryn Carlson speaking about her experience making the film:

NATGEO Proof: The Stories Behind The Photographs

In a bright, dusty loft next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard there is a studio that houses a menagerie of zebras, wolves, cougars, bears, greater kudu, gemsboks, baboons, and springbok. Except these animals are motionless and boast something never seen in nature: a human face.

This is not in an effort to create a creature from fantasy or nightmares, but rather to confront the viewer with mankind’s innate connection with the animal kingdom by evoking empathy, curiosity, and, sometimes, discomfort.

When I walked into her studio for the first time, I stared into each one of those animal’s humanlike eyes, fringed with the animal’s real eyelashes. I felt chills up my spine, but not from horror or disgust. These were hauntingly beautiful sculptures that combined two separate worlds: one from the plains of the savanna and the other from the clustered, dirty streets of New York City.

That transformation from animal to human is what has her work being viewed all over the world. Those intense eyes, the serene facial expression, and the proud animal’s body consistently draw in people from all different races, religions, and languages. Some are aghast at her audacity to combine human and animal, but most are entranced and appreciative of the message she hopes to get across.


Collaboration with Desiigner and Kanye West:  PANDA VIDEO

Published on May 17, 2016

I was honored to be contacted by the Executive Producer on Kanye West's team to sculpt a mask that would look like my sculpture work and transform Desiigner into a ‘half man/half panda’ for the final scene of video. The video was released on Tidal and Youtube and has over 300,000,000 views.

Video Credits
Desiigner “Panda” Official Music Video
Creative by Kanye West and Paul Geusebroek
Directed by Paul Geusebroek
Produced by Iconoclast, Grant Curatola
Executive Produced by Kathleen Heffernan
Director of Photography by Daniel Bouquet, Stuart Winecoff
Panda Mask Sculpture by Kate Clark

Photo Credit: Jeff Hutton

Photo Credit: Jeff Hutton

Citizen: An American Lyric, By Claudia Rankine

Commissioned Sculpture
for an image featured in this multi-award winning book

Graywolf Press

Claudia writes about why she chose to incorporate my sculpture into her book in an interview with Lauren Berlant

BOMB magazine

Kate Clark’s Little Girl and Wangechi Mutu’s Sleeping Heads were both important for me to get the rights to use in Citizen because they performed, enacted, and depicted something ancient that I couldn’t or didn’t want to do in language. In African-American literature it’s the moment the ancestor shows up in a corner somewhere, a direct descendant of slavery. They are both, in a sense, collaged pieces insisting the viewer bring together that which does not live together. They are disturbing because they are “wrong” and yet familiar on a certain level. Perhaps your word, extimate, could live and function here. The incongruity, the dissonance, revolts and attracts. Unheimlich comes to mind—you want to look away and can’t look away because it’s your doppelganger that’s been shadowing you.

Clark uses taxidermy to create her sculptures. In the particular piece I used in Citizen, she attached the black girl’s face on this deer-like body—it says it’s an infant caribou in the caption—and I was transfixed by the memory that my historical body on this continent began as property no different from an animal. It was a thing hunted and the hunting continues on a certain level. So when someone says, “I didn’t know black women could get cancer,” as was said of me, I see that I am not being seen as human, and that is fascinating to me, even as it is hurtful in a more superficial way, since my stomach hurts more from the chemo—or is it the diagnosis?