Animus
1995–1998


31 split-toned negative gelatin silver prints; 31 split-toned negative gelatin silver prints, 18 at 20” x 24” and 13 at 16” x 20”, edition of 7 variants (each slightly different because of the unstable toning process)


Animus was the first series in which I worked with animal skulls. My intention in this series was to treat the skull as a psychological force rather than a traditional symbol of death: to make it less literal. Toward this end, I distorted and abstracted it by combining different upper and lower parts of a single skull, or, more radically, combining parts of different animal – and occasionally animal and human – skulls. The skulls are juxtaposed with circular and vertical solid forms, and all are placed behind the translucent fabric rather than in front of it, rendering the objects out of focus except for a tooth or the rim of an eye socket that actually touches the fabric.


Additionally, the images are printed in reverse (the white scrim becoming dark, and the objects – shadowed behind the scrim – becoming white), and the contrast has been reduced, so that both skulls and forms seem to emerge from, or merge with, the fabric. There is no clear narrative in this work: rather, the images feel like dreams, in which something is happening – happening very intensely – that has its own inner logic while we are dreaming, but makes no sense in the real world.


To reinforce this uncanny quality, the prints have been split-toned, intensifying the skulls and forms to a ghostly white and turning the dark values various shades of purplish-red that bleed erratically into the gray areas.