Humanimals and Their Kin: The Art of Gerald Heffernon
May 29 - August 22, 2004
Sculptor Gerald Heffernon produces lifelike works of art that shock, amuse, delight and disturb viewers. An artist who lives and works near Davis, California, he has been producing animal-inspired sculptures for over twenty-five years. His art has been shown in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris and other cities in the United States and Europe, and locally at the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis.
Heffernon plans to eventually sculpt the entire phyla of the animal kingdom. He produces startlingly realistic portrayals of animals large and small, from cats, dogs, and birds, to life-size jungle creatures and humanoids with animal features. While at first glance many of these animals appear as though they could exist in nature, these animals are not always what they seem. In many workss the animals' "genetic" make-up seems to have taken a horribly wrong turn. Lizards with cats heads, dogs with four eyes, and prehistoric birds with fur all exist in the artist's fantastic world. "I find beauty in my monsters," Heffernon says. "Of course, most people don't. Still, I think the standards of conventional beauty can be wrapped around a strange, alien object or being.
House pets alone offer almost unlimited fodder for Heffernon's twisted imagination. Domestic felines such as Green Lizardcat, Three-eyed Xerxes, and Oriental Ruggy (a cat look-alike with Persian carpet coat) exist in an uneasy relationship with dogs bearing names like the Shovelnosed Streetcleaner, Petit Griffon Fou, and Irish Incendiary Terrier. Ahead of his time, many of Heffernon's pieces were created before science could clone animals, and now, in retrospect, his pieces seem to express trepidation that science in the wrong hands may prove disastrous. Heffernon's concerns seem especially apparent in the human forms, such as the life-size woman with an elephants head, or in Cruttwell Manfaced Pointer, a dogs body with a human face. While cats intimately scaled as Guinea pigs are irresistibly cute, fur-covered humans with snouts are disturbing. All, however, stem from the artists fascination with "what-ifs" and the power of man to alter the very building blocks of life.