Though the animal figures currently populating ART 3 are compact enough to hug, there’s nothing cuddly about them. Rather, these are beasts sprung from mixed media and performance artist Dan Bainbridge’s mind. With carefully placed crystals and lights, and such unexpected materials as prosthetic fingers and whipped cream canisters, he manages to transform even the cutest creatures (like a pink stuffed rabbit) into Frankenstein-like creatures. The gallery has brought them together for the artist’s first solo show in New York, titled “Dan Bainbridge, Bestiary.”
Bainbridge is interested in contrasts and internal conflict. The beasts in his bestiary are both abject and adorable, and appear at once menacing and vulnerable. For some, he begins with found stuffed animals, to which he makes unusual and assorted alterations and additions. For others, he assembles such materials as plastic, leather, and fur, and pieces them together to form hybrid beings.
Take Unicorn (2013), for example. Here, the artist began with a stuffed, cotton candy-pink pony with silver hooves and a plush white mane and a tail tied with a small pink bow. To transform this pony into the mythical unicorn, he impaled the innocent stuffed animal with a large crystal, the tip of which sticks out from the middle of its head, and then wired up its body from within, so that it emits a warm yellow glow. Nearby, The Bunny (2013) stands perkily atop a wooden base. Its fur is matted, as if it had once been too well loved. Bainbridge has sliced open its body and replaced its stuffing with a curled piece of chicken wire, which can be seen through its opened pelt.
The she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus is also a part of this collection of creatures, in a number of different forms. In one, She Wolf Reading Light (2013), her teats are composed of glowing crystals, while another, She-Wolf (2014), employs whipped cream canisters. During a performance incorporating the latter she-wolf, Bainbridge invited viewers to take sweet sustenance from them. While there are those who might like to get closer to his work through such interaction, the artist understands that some would rather look, not touch.