Beef, Pickled Cows, Art and PETA


When I heard the name of the Brooklyn artist Tamara Kostianovsky, my first thought was, “Oh, well, yet another young Russian artist, hoping to conquer New York.”  I was wrong. Ms. Kostianovsky  is neither particularly young nor she is Russian, in spite of Russian-sounding name.  She is a child of Seventies and grew up in Argentina.

Looking at the sculptures  above, I couldn’t quite comprehend what those colorful hunks of god-knows-what were meant to represent. Some unbeknownst abstractions? Now that I know, I can explain my ignorance by my  lack of exposure to humongous chunks of meat. Normally, I meet my meat  in grocery stores, neatly packaged and rather small.   Yes, Ms. Kostianovsky’s objets d’art  are meant to represent semi-realistic  “portraits” of pieces of meat , of cut carcasses , bones and cartilage of animals, often displayed hanging from hooks as they would be hanging in slaughterhouses. 

Don’t feel immediately grossed out. Unlike Lady Gaga’s infamous Angus-beef-stake dress,  Ms. Kostianovsky sculptures are honest-to-goodness vegetarian and 100% eco-friendly. Her raw material isn’t raw meat but… fabric — all sorts of discarded clothing, used yarn and various other textile treasures found in closets, attics, ancient chests and thrift stores.  Some of the objects of her exhibit Habeas Corpus (Latin for I have a body) below look really, should I say, meaty.  Commenting on her own works, Ms. Kostianovsy says she wants to stir not positive but negative emotions in people. By her own admission, she creates symbols of  violence and murder.

“I intended to show viewers the real and the absurd nature of violence, offering an opportunity to reflect on the vulnerability of our physical existence, violence, poverty , consumption, and the insatiable needs of our physical nature.”

Ever ready with a snide remark or two, I was about to exercise this readiness  to my vile little heart’s desire. But then I read this on Tamara Kostianovsky’s homepage:tamara 3

…and I, sort of, choked on my snidiness. (MS Word doesn’t like this word, but I’ll leave it as is).

Ms. Kostianovsky lived through hell, and hell followed her everywhere. Her artwork is her way of dealing with her demons.  If creating flesh, blood and bone out of textiles is what she does to keep them at bay, then all power to her. It’s not like she is pickling real cows in formaldehyde or exhibits real severed rotting animal heads like formidable and grossly over-hyped Damien Hirst.  I don’t even want to go there, where Damien Hirst dwells.  Remember  the massacre of 9,000 innocent butterflies? Yes, it was Mr. Hirst’s exhibit that — the irony of it! — was called  In and Out of Love. It was the last straw for PETA  (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They fell out of love with Mr. Hirst to an unheard of, absolutely unprecedented degree of no-love-lost, perhaps praying to pagan gods of All Animals for his horrible demise in the paws, hooves, teeth and on the horn tips of every animal Mr. Hirst ever mutilated for the sake of art (or whatever it is Mr. Hirst so tirelessly and repeatedly despoils the canvas that is the Animal Kingdom.)

Meanwhile, undoubtedly, Ms. Kostianovsky is PETA’s darling. Well, I don’t know that for a fact, but if not, then PETA should make her thus. No matter what anyone says — particularly such cynical people as yours truly — she deserved to be their most honored Dame. Just look at these cuddly  bleeding backsides, racks of ribs and carefully arranged guts.


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