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divine bovines installation

holy cow! (divine bovines)

Galeria Catete at the Museu da Republica, Rio de Janiero
July 8 - August 8, 1999

This installation blends an interest in the manufactured, the organic, the man-made and the natural into a poignant and witty homage to the cow and the perceptions and ideals the reproduction of the cow presents.

Berk's work denotes a bucolic breed of nature turned upside down and around - she illuminates man-made representations of pastoral scenes but the materials she uses are anything but natural - quite the contrary - they are processed fakery - standardized cloth prints, industrial styrofoam backings, fake furs and synthetics - all artificially emulating nature.

divine bovines

The Enlightenment acquainted us with the divineness of our natural world. Our post-industrial, post-modern, post-feminist, post-society takes the same stance but this time with irony instead of worship, or is it the worship of irony? Cows and cow connotations represent many things to many people - they are man-made entities, domestic food sources, carbon dioxide producing polluters of the planet, docile money-making products, unflappable, implacable, mute, watchful, grounded stand-ins for the feminine. They are a bastion of calm in our supercharged society. Cows have piqued the imagination of many artists ranging from cave paintings, sacred Hindu paintings of cows, to late 19th Century European landscape painters, the lush Hudson River Valley school of the United States and 20th Century pop-icons Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

Adam Smith spoke of the "wealth of nations", using the metaphor of the single pin for the division of labor. Similarly using this "low" material to speak to "lofty" issues, Berk puts pins into these pleasant pastoral scenes, both poking holes and punctuating our love of nature and our notions of idealistic normalcy. These steel pins, commonly used in sewing, reference woman's work as well as acupuncture and voodoo. These shiny soldiers serve to ornament and illuminate the all-mighty cow, all the while sticking pins into forced/fake simplicity.

In addition to the pinned pastoral scenes, squares and rectangles simply covered with fabrics evoking the cow (fake furs, cow prints, etc) will be interspersed in the wall installation. These minimal offerings serve as a counterpoint/punch to the highly worked pins. Offsetting the wall installation and abstracting the shape and idea of the cow, three dimensional fabric cow floor manifestations will also be included in the exhibition. holy cow! (divine bovines) was created specifically for exhibition in the highly ornate and historically rich Museu du Republica.

These richly ornamented totems humorously upend and pay homage to historical precedents allowing viewers to ponder the role of the cow, who and what the divine bovine represents and our culture's investment into this seemingly "lowly" utilitarian animal by making something beautiful, decorative and aesthetic out of the mundane.

divine bovines soft sculptures