Animus
1995–1998


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. I also placed the skulls behind the translucent fabric rather than in front of it, rendering them out of focus except for a tooth or the rim of an eye socket that actually touched 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 light-forms seem to emerge from, or merge with, the fabric. While there is a frequent element of hostility and sexual tension in this series, there is no clear narrative: 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 light-forms to a ghostly white and turning the dark values various shades of purplish-red that bleed erratically into the gray areas.


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

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