Deborah Simon – Getting Under The Skin

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Deborah Simon is a mixed media artist from Brooklyn, USA.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus

“My work walks the line between taxidermy, toy and sculpture. Each sculpture is meticulously fabricated to create an unnervingly accurate but slightly off version of the natural animal.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus - back

“Evolution has always held a particular fascination for me, informing how I create and group the animals in my work. As I’ve read and dug through museum collections to research my pieces, western science’s mania for labeling, codifying and collecting has stood out. Most of this categorizing bears little resemblance to how animals and plants exist out in the natural world and I find this disconnect fascinating.

Deborah Simon - Ursus americanus

“The Flayed Bears play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification.  Bears especially interest me as they are the ultimate stuffed animals; both the iconic plush toy and the prized taxidermy specimen for hunters. Most of all the sculptures deal with vulnerability. A stuffed bear is the enduring toy of childhood. The fierce predator declawed and defanged to become a child’s beloved friend and sense of security. The pieces explore the tension between the reality of the animal and the vulnerability imbued in toy.

Deborah Simon - Ursus americanus - embroidery

Their fur is removed on the body, leaving a linen skin, as if they’d been flayed or like undressed porcelain dolls, with the hard sculpted fur covered head and paws connected to the soft linen body. On the linen I’ve embroidered different organ systems that I felt best represented each species.”

Deborah Simon - Ursus arctos horribilus

I find these pieces incredibly powerful. Not only are they physically large, and therefore a feat of technical expertise, but the characterisation of the bears and their subsequent flaying is really quite moving. Reminiscent of bad circuses from the past, you can feel the pain of the animals, their stance suggesting captivity.

Deborah Simon - Ursus arctos horribilus - embroidery

The removal of skin and embroidery of their inner workings elicits a response akin to that of traditional taxidermy – despite how cool small bits of taxidermy might be these days, there’s something haunting about seeing big beasts turned into trophies. Deborah’s work is simply clay and fur and stitch, but her execution is so well done that I feel like crying at the demise of these beasts. It’s wonderful work.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus - face detail

Connect with Deborah via her website.