Call her “The Re-Animator.” In her new show at Bermudez Projects in Downtown Los Angeles, Erynn Richardson brings back to life the deer that hunters across America stalk, kill, stuff, and display; and turns them into nigh-religious icons.
Richardson, who earned her MFA at California State University, Long Beach, says, “In my artistic practice I explore how people use objects to tell stories about themselves. Objects often become metaphors for power and class; owning or displaying them weaves a narrative.”
Take the taxidermied deer head, for example. Across America, every fall, millions of hunters strive to “get their deer.” It’s a strong tradition with roots that go back to the cave, one passed from father to son that involves prowess, ritual, and community. “The taxidermied deer,” Richardson writes, “is a trophy and souvenir to its owner; simultaneously, it acts as a symbol of ability to viewers.” It is a sort of sacred object, which Richardson highlights in approximately 25 ink and watercolor on paper drawings and studies that range from 3 x 5 inches to 42 x 34 inches.
While some artists have lately taken to including deer as kitsch fetish objects, sometimes even adding fangs to heighten the counterculture allure (you know, “Zombie deer”), Richardson has created loving portraits with painstakingly applied gold-leaf halos that transform her works of art into something more akin to Russian Orthodox saints’ icons. She writes, “I am fascinated by the idea of something, through culture, myth or narrative, becoming sacred. To convey a sense of sacredness in my drawings I looked to visual representations of religious iconography: halos, flowers, and geometric forms.”
But there’s also underlying unease. “The sight of death saddens me,” Richardson says, “but I find myself naturally attracted to things that remain from something that was once alive. When I see taxidermy, my emotions swing between desire and disgust. I find the mounted animal form slightly bizarre. At the same time, the beauty of the once-living creature overwhelms me and I find the object strangely alluring.”
To address those conflicts, she “commemorates” the deer, in a way that portrays all its majesty, along with her own angst towards her personal role in portraying these dead deer as cultural icons.
Erynn Richardson "Sacred & Haunted"
Los Angeles, CA
On view: September 5 - October 24, 2015
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 5, 7-10PM