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Heads and Tales

October 22, 2009

If you’re in the mood for something a little creepy, head on over to Harvard Square to the Pierre Menard Gallery to see the current exhibit Heads and Tales by Heide Hatry. It is a collection of photographs of Hatry’s sculptures of female heads. If you’re wondering why there are flies all over this example’s face, well, it’s because these aren’t sculptures made of clay or bronze.
They’re made of raw pig meat.

Hatry creates a base for the sculpture of clay, then covers it with a layer of meat and inserts pigs’ eyes into the eye sockets. She then makes up the face much like a mortician does a corpse with makeup and hair to give it a somewhat lifelike appearance. Lastly she attaches more meat to create the lips. It is an extension of the metaphor of seeing women only as meat gone terribly, terribly wrong…but, in a way, oh so right.

In addition to the photographs, there is a block of writing mounted next to each sculpture. Hatry commissioned a number of writers to look at each sculpture and create a life for them. What is read is an excerpt of their story. Many of them deal with sexual abuse, prostitution, motherhood and other various uses of the female body. Some are written as if the woman is now dead. What Hatry is studying here is how women are viewed by society. She shows them only from the bust up and allows observers to imagine an identity for them based solely on their hair color and style, skintone, clothing, and the (often crazed) look in their eyes, therefore encouraging the perpetuity of stereotypes and assumptions based on women’s looks.

I had been under the impression that, along with the photos, there would be a full sculpture on display, allowing the viewer to do this exercise for themselves, but when I visited it wasn’t available for viewing. The exhibit was still worth viewing though. While there would’ve been more of an impact if the sculptures themselves were on display, the images and the concepts behind them were still thought-provoking, eery, captivating.

Originally written March 1, 2009

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