Art exhibit challenges aesthetics

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By Doreena Carter
RCC students including Rohan Reid and Georgina Shnani view Catherine Coan’s “Prix Fixe” in the RCC Quad Art Gallery on March 20. Imari Rede | Viewpoints

A vampire deer, an estranged boar, an overdosed bird and deers with candies spilling out of them has  sparked curiosity in spectators  at “Nature Mortes.”

“Nature Mortes” features displays of animals, death, candy and even more death. Riverside City College students and staff take a step into the mind of local high school English teacher Catherine Coan.

Her taxidermic art pieces give students a new way to appreciate art. “Nature Mortes” which translates to “Dead Nature,” is a practice of still life art that presents subject matters of anything in a painting or sculpture that is still or dead.

It’s not as creepy as you would expect once you get by that fact all the dead animals were alive at one point, starting from pieces as big as the zebra to the tiny butterflies.

Possibly it is not the art itself that makes speculators uneasy, but being in the presence of death is what cause their fraught.

“I like how its just so different. They made the animals look beautiful on the inside,” Georgina Shnani, an RCC student, said.

The creepy music along with hybrid squirrel bats is enough to make anyone walk in and ponder what they walked into before turning back around to enjoy the live greenery right outside.

“I didn’t like it, but it was interesting,” Kyndra Jordan-Thomas, an RCC student, said. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but that does not discredit the genius of the art.

“People get shocked by it, but don’t get really upset. Except for one lady, maybe because of the cultural stuff because when animals don’t get buried they can’t go back into the world. She said she was upset because now they’re trapped,” art gallery attendant Cheyenne Jordan said.

Upon entering the gallery, Coan does have a disclaimer proclaiming that all animals are real but were given as a gift and have all died of natural causes. No harm was done to the animals for art show purposes.

“The zebra is the part that most people get surprised about and I tell them, because they think that they’re killed, but that zebra is actually 70 years old, it used to be at a zoo and it was given to her as a gift, a lot of these animals were actually given to her as a gift,” Jordan said.

Coan’s artwork depicts somewhat of a metaphorical approach that shows the complexity of human nature through the animal’s human like qualities. Mice answering phones, racoons writing poetry and sheep wearing jewelry makes the audience experience nature in a whole new spectrum.

“When (students and staff) come in here they’re like ‘wow is this like real animals?’ I tell them yes, it’s taxidermy. They usually react really off, they get taken back by it. Then afterwards they’re like ‘oh it’s so neat how she uses the art with the crystals and stuff’ and they look deeper into it,” said Jordan.

“Cornucopia” is a must see piece. Coan envelopes a transformation between a literal yet deeply allegorical visual of a deer hanging like a broken piñata bearing several items that humans see as a cornucopia of pleasures like cigarettes, condoms and liquor that spew out of its split corpse.

“That deer must have had a really lit night,” Rohan Reid, an RCC student said.

The exhibit will continue to present Coan’s work until April 4 in the RCC Quadrangle Art Gallery 140.

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