Creepy or Creative?

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Having no artistic ability myself, I love looking at other people’s creativity and talent. I

particularly enjoy sculptures and found this artist while searching on-line for interesting

pieces. The artist, Ron Mueck, was born in Australia and began his career as a

puppeteer and model maker for children’s T.V. and movies. This includes time spent

working with the late Muppet creator, Jim Henson. He then moved to London to open

his own business making realistic props and animatronics for advertising. In 1996,

Mueck transitioned in to the fine arts by creating small figurines. His pieces are

generally made using a clay model and can include silicone, polyurethane, wood, resin,

synthetic hair and fur, fiberglass, and cotton. One piece, Dead Dad, is silicone and

mixed media but also his own hair. It is the only sculpture to include real hair.

Realism is said to show the ordinary and everyday so to term Mueck as a ‘Hyperrealist’

seems appropriate. While the subjects of his sculptures are ultra-realistic, the

scales at which they are made is anything but ordinary. Some pieces are abnormally

large whereas others are much smaller than their actual size.The ancient Greeks often

sculpted the ideal body image with emotionless faces. Much later, the Renaissance

period of sculpting added expression and energy to their sculptures. One example of

this is Michelangelo’s David. By understanding human anatomy, David represents the

perfect male specimen. Mueck’s subjects are far from flawless, showing every vein,

wrinkle, hair, and blemish on the body. These imperfections are what I love and hate

about Mueck’s work. While I can appreciate the talent needed to create such precise

details, I don’t necessarily always enjoy looking at it. To me some of these sculptures

are like looking at a car crash; many people slow down to see what has happened but

would probably be horrified if they actually came upon a grotesque scene. Similarly, all

of Mueck’s sculptures are shown with such precision and detail that it can be a bit

overwhelming.

I found this especially true in both Dead Dad (1996-1997) and A Girl (2006). If the

naked man were not one-third the normal size, you might actually think you are looking

at a real corpse. Some people, myself included, like to hope that death is peaceful and

this piece feels quite the opposite. It is so raw and realistic that I am a little repulsed by

it. This is also true of the large scale baby girl. Rather than the ‘pink bundle of joy’ of

imagination, she is still bloodied with part of her umbilical cord jutting out. When asked

why he alters the scale of his figures, Mueck replied “It makes you take notice in a way

that you wouldn’t do with something that’s just normal” (Sculpture.org). Some pieces

such as Big Man and Couple Under an Umbrella, I found more pleasurable to look at.

Although they also included every fat dimple and wrinkle a person can have, I wasn’t

turned off by them like in the previous two works. Over-all, I think Mueck’s talent is both

undeniable and fascinating but I don’t personally care to have that much reality slap me

in the face.

Links:

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/ron_mueck/

indulgd.com/realistic-human-sculptures-by-ron-mueck

www.potiori.com/Ron_Mueck.html

http://echostains.wordpress.com/tag/ron-mueck/

Questions:

  • Does altering the scale of his subjects create more of an impact on you?
  • By being able to see every imperfection, do you find Mueck’s sculptures too realistic?
  • Do you believe that photo-shopping and digital enhancement in advertising is deceptive?

Tami Klatt

 

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26 thoughts on “Creepy or Creative?

  1. I saw “Dead Dad” in the Royal Academy YBA “Sensation” show in 1997. For me, it was one of the stand out pieces in a show bursting with stand out and controversial pieces (The Myra Hindley portrait made from children’s hand prints for example). I remember returning to look at this over and over, transfixed by the reality of it and beguiled by the scale – it felt perfect but oddly wrong in equal measures. It’s a powerful work of art.

    • It must have been amazing to see his work in person. I kept wondering why he created “Dead Dad” so small — was it a commentary on his father’s life? on death itself? or something completely different? I have to admit that while the piece freaked me out, it did make me think a lot.

      • From memory I think it was a bit of both. I’ve seen several of his pieces over the years and they are all a bit creepy yet compelling at the same time, alive or dead!!

  2. Variations in art is always something interesting because it may have not been done before or its quite rare to see around. It is true that some of the sculptures are unattractive to the eye, but I must admit it looks very realistic as well. The artist may have wanted a realistic approach about life, rather than filtering the sculptures to look to what we think is perfect. It is a bit creepy at first, but it is very realistic and not much is shown like that in art. I thought that some of the sculptures were photos of people, but the amount of detail and work that was put into the sculptures is amazing. I believe these sculptures are in a way the artist’s signature of his work.

    • I could not believe how realistic these pieces were. Until I saw the size scale of the couple on the beach, I also thought that they were the models for the piece and not the actual sculpture. He is so precise, it’s like looking through a microscope.

  3. Wow is all I can really say when I examine this art. It is off the charts with how real this art work looks. Every wrinkle, speckle, frown, projection of movement, shade of skin, etc is absolutely impeccable. I would consider his art a combination of both creepy and creative. What seperates his art work is the different sizes of his figures. If they were normal sized I dont think that his art work would have the same impact it does now. I wonder where he gets his inspiration from for these different types of sculptures? Does he have physical pictures of these people? How does he determine what size a sculpture is going to be?

    • In an interview, Mueck stated that he finds normal-sized figures boring. By manipulating the sizes, it makes them much more interesting to himself and hopefully the public as well. Some of the sculptures are solely from his imagination, in others he may use photographs, book references, or his own reflection. He went on to say that he rarely works with live models. As far as deciding what size to make each sculpture, Mueck claims that it is intuitive and he may make alterations to the piece as he is working on it.

  4. To be honest…..I was like “Oh my god!” I literally couldn’t look at any of these images for more than 5 seconds, especially the Dead Dad one *shivers*. They are just so realistic I almost thought they were photographs, until I saw the size of the giant baby! I have to say Ron Mueck really knows how to capture the disturbingly truth of reality. To be honest I don’t see how he can just create every wrinkle, every vein, a facial expression without some sort of subject he is referring to (a photograph or something). I love that you compared Greek and Mueck’s artwork, they do differ immensely, and at the same time don’t…? They also show just how much we have come in understanding different types of art. It just goes to show what some people may find beautiful, others may feel the opposite. Great Blog, thanks for sharing :)!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed it. Like you, I couldn’t help staring at the pieces but almost felt guilty by doing so. The harsh reality he captures is truly unnerving. Although I can appreciate his technique and talent, in general, I think I prefer “a little more fantasy” in my artwork!!!

  5. WOW ia my first reaction. I have never seen these pieces of art before, and I personally find them distrubing. BUT yet, I can not stop looking at them! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I am sure others find these sculptures as a form of beauty. Even though these sculptures make me uncomfortable, I have enjoyed seeing something different. Very unique and eye catching. Great blog!

    • That’s what is so great about doing this Blog, I think we will find many forms of art that we may not have considered or seen before. As uncomfortable as some of these pieces made me, I really enjoyed finding something new and can’t wait to see what else we get this semester!

  6. I do think that the digital enhancing is a little bit misleading. The things are never what they look like in commercials. Food included.
    When it comes the the sculptures, i like them a lot. They seem real. The size is the only thing that isnt realistic about them. But the fact that they look so real is really impressive. I have done a little sculpture work, and i cant ever make things look so real. i find that very impressive. The imperfections that he includes is a reminder for everyone who looks at them that they have flaws themselves.

    • The flaws and imperfections are what I find impressive too. In a world where cosmetic surgery and air brushing seem to be the norm, it is refreshing to see an artist so committed to reality (except for the sizes).

  7. “Hyper-realistic” works of art always have a big impact, the fact that these are massive increases the impact exponentially, more than just visually. Small scale objects can have the same effect. I can’t really articulate the effect size can have on art, but in this case I think giant is good.
    I love them and yet they kind of make my skin crawl a little too. To me, part of the reason they’re beautiful because they show the “nitty-gritty” in such detail. It’s like the famous picture of the monk burning, or the Vietnamese man being executed. It’s morbid reality.

    • I think to really grasp his work, one would have to see it in person. I agree with you about the photographs; some of the most beautiful and agonizing pictures are those taken in the midst of horror.

  8. These pieces of art are so crazy. I think altering the scale of his subjects create more of an impact to me because they leave me worrying why he made them the size he made them.
    By being able to see every imperfection, I find Mueck’s sculptures too realistic. You get to see every little wrinkle and pimple the person has and the people’s hair looks so real. At first I thought the pictures were photographs and then I read the blog and was so surprised. I believe that photo shopping and digital enhancement in advertising is deceptive because they really are not being true. If you were to meet the person in real life they would not look like the picture that got photo shopped of themselves. Good blog.

    • You are so right regarding deceptive advertising practices. I think this “false” advertising has greatly contributed to the growing number of people (many of them children) with eating disorders. Although the hyper-realism is a lot to take in, I think it offers a truer version of real life.

  9. These sculptures are so detailed it’s crazy! I think one reason they may be made a lot bigger than an actual size of a baby or the size of a human is because it may be easier for him to create detail on a larger scale and it allows people to see all those details because they are all bigger. He clearly is trying to make an impact on his audience and it would be all for naught if they missed out on some of the details because they weren’t noticeable enough.

    • I think that the impact it has on you is exactly what the artist intended. Mueck stated that he found “regular” sized sculptures boring. I hadn’t thought about being able to create more intricate details by enlarging some pieces – that is a terrific point — thank-you so much for your feedback.

  10. Wow! these sculptures are nothing short of amazing! I wish that I could do realistic work such as this. I love how much detail are put into these sculptures although some of them make me slightly uneasy. I love how you can see every imperfection. Nobody is perfect and it makes the sculpture look more realistic to the point where you would think these sculptures were real people standing next to you. I also think Photoshop and digital enhancement is very deceptive. When people look at those type of photos a lot of them wonder why they don’t look like that. They give an image of how “perfect” people should look. Because of this a lot of people focus so much about hiding their flaws then instead of loving themselves for the way they look or how they were born.

    • Although Mueck manipulates the sizes of his sculptures, the imperfections are what makes them so spectacular. I also believe that people spend so much time and money trying to cover up their flaws. It would be so nice if everyone could embrace themselves for who they were – pimples, wrinkles, and all!!!!

  11. Hi Tami 😀

    Just like you, I don’t have any artistic ability whatsoever, but I will admit that I love to see sculptures of any kind. Maybe it is because I like to see artworks in 3D dimension rather than on a piece of paper. The images that you posted are very strong and very attractive. That leads me to your first question, in my opinion, I will say “yes”, altering the scale of anything that for us seems normal, is going to get our attention just for the fact that it not normal. To answer your second question, I would say that even though we do see the imperfections on the sculptures, we will still think they are real (if they are made at a normal scale), the reason being is because even when we see a real person, we can’t tell what imperfections that real person has, unless we look at it very closely but in real life, we don’t do that, but we still agree that person is real. And finally, to answer your last question, I do believe that photo-shopping and digital image enhancements are very deceptive. We see that all the time on magazines, catalogs, prints, and advertisements. The “perfect” skin, the “perfect” posture, the “perfect” picture, is all manipulated and it is causing a bad influence for those who wish to be identical. I enjoyed reading your blog and looking at your pictures, thank you for sharing with us.

    • By making his sculptures over or under-sized, it definitely grabs your attention. Until I saw additional photos of the works in progress, I thought many of the pics were actual people. It is innovative to see the imperfections in his artwork but — I have to admit, the older I get, the less I want to look at myself that closely!!!

  12. Creepy or creative? Good question, after seeing it for the first time , I’m still undecided. However looking at those sculptures ,how realistic and perfected they are is mind blowing! How much work was done and how much talent the artist has, to create such a perfect visualacion of real people. I would definitely attend any of this artist’s exhibition to see his creations!

    • Even though some of the pieces creeped me out, I would also love to see an exhibition in person. I think you’re right, although not every piece may be to someone’s taste, you can still appreciate his incredible talent. I find the hyper-realism both off-putting and refreshing.

  13. At first look these pieces seemed very odd and almost gross. But as I looked at them more I found them to be very interesting. The one of the man with the large feet really stood out to me because of how the artist made his body seem so awkward. Also that was done by the position he’s sitting in. I w never seen art like this but I was definitely able to appreciate it. I enjoyed these pieces very much. Excellent!

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