What exactly are we seeing here?
Tentacles notwithstanding, these magnetic, fascinating images, part of the Important Things project by Portland, Oregon artist Tamara Lischka, are incredibly slippery. Do you find them disturbing, or serene? Abominable, or beautiful? Do they tell of birth, or death? Have the hands disrupted, or nurtured? And to what does the project title refer?
What do you see?
“When I was a child,” writes the artist, “I occasionally found mermaid’s purses – egg cases for sharks and skates which had washed up on the beach. I wanted to open the purses, to find out if the leathery sacks actually contained a baby shark or not, but spent long minutes filled with anxiety about what I would see if I did. Would the fish still be alive? Would it squirm or move? Having destroyed its haven, could I really just stand there and watch the fetus die? Eventually such thoughts eclipsed all curiosity, and so I always put the purse back down on the sand and left it undisturbed.
“In the past my work has held its secrets close, literally enclosed in the sculptural spaces created by curled fingers and closing hands… But now the hands are beginning to open, long sequestered thoughts and feelings finally examined and revealed.
“Fetus, fish, squid – the lifeless bodies of these creatures appear eerily animate, even grotesque out of context. Yet the hands that hold them nurture as much as they expose, fingers curving around the tiny forms, even as they lift them gently up into the light.”
— Tamara Lischka