In Debbie Kupinsky’s sculpture “Predation” we are invited into a staged confrontation. The predator and the prey have come to a head, and have nothing left but to stare into each other’s eyes as the tension builds. Both figures have been anthropomorphized, and in doing so Kupinsky has drawn us into the scene in terms we can easily understand. Animals as lens for the examination of human behavior is a motif as old as time, and this is an interesting recontextualization of that narrative.
In discussing the piece itself I’m drawn to the range of textural difference across the piece. The heads are matte bare clay, transitioning into the slightly glossy body. The fur is cut into the clay surface, creating visual and textural interest across the head. I’ve always been intrigued by the interplay between complex and simple surface, and this is no exception. The dark crevices of the broken cast pieces pull you in further, and you can’t help but attempt to discern what these fragments once were.
There are many ways to read into this interaction. For example, this piece may be looking into the relationship of the literal predator and its prey. In this interpretation the anthropomorphic qualities serve mostly as a medium for translation. The opposite is true if one looks at the animal roles for metaphors to explain the behavior of humans. In the case of this sculpture I think both are supported by aspects of the piece, but I personally appreciate the former, as the latter gets into territory associated with sociopaths. I particularly appreciate the handling of each of the characters through this lens. The wolf, usually resigned to play the role of the villain, is depicted as sympathetic. There is no malice in its eyes, just as there is no fear in the eyes of the stag. The two seem to understand their situation, whatever that specific situation may be.
What we’re sure about is that there is a story being told here, and in this ambiguity we find room to imbue these figures with our own narrative. The context provided gives those narratives poignancy, and anchors them in something we can explore and interact with. That is the value of sculpture. It invites us into this dialogue, and without the explicit direction of the artist we’re left to fill in the gaps with our own story.