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Guest Contributor: Charissa N. Terranova

huma bhabha

The Animals Within and Among Us

Internationally acclaimed artist Huma Bhabha’s expressive portrait drawings explore the relationship between humans and the natural world surrounding them.

The Pakistani-born, Poughkeepsie-based artist Huma Bhabha, best known for her golem-like sculptures, prints, and paintings, is one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Her work has been hailed by critics as “other-worldly,” “monstrous” yet “supplicant,” and simultaneously “post-apocalyptic” and “prehistoric.” Eight untitled portrait drawings (2014–2016) created by Bhabha are on view at NorthPark Center. Anonymous, gestural, and void of discernable time, each figure isindividualized by way of Bhabha’s freewheeling strokes of inks and pastels of various colors, enhanced by collaged images of dogs, coyotes, wolves, cheetahs, and other wild animals.

In these striking works, Bhabha returns to an earlier practice of two-dimensional printmaking, her major as an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design in the mid-1980s. Bhabha homed in on the dynamism inherent in the medium of printmaking, as it is the source of her later sculptural practice. In her works at NorthPark, the connections between drawing and sculpture are palpable. Both are body-oriented, expressive, and earthen yet supernatural, exploring three-dimensional space and weight. “Both mediums feed off each other,” she says. “The drawings began as cinematic fantasies of the sculptures in various locations, and as I became more experienced working with the materials (paper, collage, spray paint, ink, etc.), they have become more unique and varied.”

The work of German postwar avant-garde artist Joseph Beuys was very influential in Bhabha’s incorporation of animal figures in her portraiture. Bhabha cites in particular Beuys’ performance piece I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), in which Beuys lived with a wild coyote in an art gallery for three days. “His interaction with a coyote,” Bhabha explains, “is linked directly to my use of the dog/wolf images [in the NorthPark drawings] and the idea of re-establishing or healing the broken connection between humans and the natural world.”

Bhabha’s works at NorthPark are about connection. They layer primal form and a sense of the now. Her message is an ecological one: humans must be attuned to the animal not simply within, but with which they are interconnected. They do not stand atop the hierarchy of form and being. Rather, they stand together with all animate and inanimate life.

To see more from NorthPark The Magazineclick here or pick up your copy at the shopping center. Photo courtesy of Salon 94, New York.