A Grisly Grizzly and Other Bare Bears by Deborah Simon

Artist Deborah Simon's series of Flayed Bear Sculptures combine taxidermy, science and embroidery. Her three unusual bear sculptures have faux fur partially pulled back to reveal the anatomy underneath.

Deborah created the project both prior to and during her residency at New York's Sculpture Space and describes the process as follows:

"The bears play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification. They especially interest me as bears 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; the vulnerability that the animals face from environmental degradation, conflicts with people, suburban sprawl and poaching. I particularly find the dichotomy between the defanged, declawed childhood toy and the fierce reality of a top predator fascinating.

The bears – polar, grizzly, black, and panda – are about toy size and seated like a plush toy bear. 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. At Sculpture Space I started the black bear, creating the foam body, sewed the linen and fur, sculpted the head and mapped out the embroidery of the spine and nervous system."

The Finished Pieces

Ursus arctos horribilus, polymer clay, faux fur, linen, embroidery floss, acrylic paint, glass, wire and foam, 22”H x 25”D x 19”W, 2013:

Ursus maritimus, polymer clay, faux fur, linen, embroidery floss, acrylic paint, glass, wire and foam, 22”H x 25”D x 19”W, 2012:

Ursus americanus, polymer clay, faux fur, linen, embroidery floss, acrylic paint, glass, wire and foam, 22”H x 25”D x 19”W, 2013:

photos by Photo by Dan Wonderly

Artist's Statement:
Each animal is meticulously fabricated to create an unnervingly accurate but slightly off version of the natural animal. 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.

About the Artist:
Deborah Simon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, cat and rabbit. She studied sculpture at the Repin Institute of Art in Leningrad, USSR, received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an then a MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York. She has shown around the country, including a solo shows at LZ Project Space in New York City and Packer Schopf in Chicago. She has also shown at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin and St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Labapalooza! in Brooklyn. NY. She received a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation grant and is a Sculpture Space and Vermont Studio Center fellow. She is represented by Packer Schopf in Chicago.

images courtesy of the artist and Sculpture Space

Deborah Simon

a big thanks to Designboom for bringing her work to my attention

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