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Peat Duggins
Art Palace, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Peat Duggins, “Coyote and Pups,” 2015, urethane, charred wood, felt and glass eyes, 72 x 72 x 35”.

Continuing through December 19, 2015

Peat Duggins' show is about the confounding power of blind nature, neither good nor evil, that manifests itself as an external force to contend with. The title references the white whale in Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.” Much like the allegory of the white whale, the white buffalo is a rare animal and a sacred symbol to Native Americans. The artist’s “White Buffalo” is the head of an albino buffalo so startlingly realistic that it is difficult to believe it was fashioned from urethane, fake fur and glass eyes. Mounted on a charred wooden plaque, this powerful image mocks the controversial practice of shooting, stuffing, and mounting animals as hunting trophies. Two other sculptures address similar themes: “Chandelier,” which appropriately hangs from the ceiling, is made from deer antlers; and “Untitled (Horn Mount)” is an albino horn also mounted on charred wood. All three pieces are “seductive and repellent,” adjectives that Duggins uses to describe nature in general.

The dominant sculpture, however, is “Coyote and Pups,” a tableaux of a white coyote in the process birthing dozens of pups. She looks somewhat unnerved by the piles of pups surrounding her. Like the buffalo, this piece both fascinates and horrifies the viewer. He is a filmmaker as well, and these pieces could easily be repurposed as props in one of his productions. More art and less prop is the watercolor and ink painting “Untitled (Two Hares),” in which a male rabbit mounts a female. The male is based on Albrecht Dürer’s “Young Hare.” Like the German artist, Duggins presents an extremely detailed and anatomically correct hare, but unlike the calm, dispassionate animal in the 16th century painting, Duggins depicts a somewhat shocked female and a determined male. Hanging near “Coyote and Pups,” this piece also addresses issues of fertility and the biological imperative of nature. Like Joseph Beuys, Duggins' body of work is an ongoing expression of Gesamtkunstwerk, which refers to universal artwork, synthetic and comprehensive, that utilizes diverse art vocabularies to encourage and drive change.

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