For the past few years, we’ve marveled at the surreal sculptures of Ellen Jewett, a Canadian artist who simultaneously fuses beauty with beasts. Octopuses, tigers, wolves, and elephants look as though they’re overrun by the Earth, with elements of flora and fauna comprising much of their bodies.
Jewett encourages close examination of her intricate works—by doing this, we look beyond their surface meaning and into the heart of the creatures she has depicted, whose concepts vary. “The viewer may discover,” she writes in her artist statement, “a frieze on which themes as familiar as domestication and as abrasive as domination fall into sharp relief.” Using a free-hand additive technique, the works are layered from the inside out, piece by tiny piece—some that are pretty while others grotesque or fantastical.
Each sculpture represents the sum of its parts, which are left purposely vague to allow for our own interpretation. “Within this ethereal menagerie,” Jewett explains, “anthrozoology meets psychoanalysis as themes of natural beauty, curiosity, colonialism, domestication, death, growth, visibility and wildness are explored.” What do you see?