When I first saw these photographs by Portland artist Tamara Lischka, I wasn’t sure if what I was looking at was real. I wondered how these images were made, how the artist had access to the bodies of these creatures, which looked to me at times human, animal, alien, and even manmade or sculptural, perfectly formed and packed with detail. Although I can see why some may be disturbed by the subject matter, fetuses being handled by human hands, I feel the pictures were made with such reverence, tenderness, and a genuine curiosity in the bodies that house our spirits, a curiosity for which we are often shamed. I love Lischka’s statement about the work, to which I can absolutely relate.
From Lischka’s statement: “When I was a child I occasionally found mermaid’s purses – egg cases for sharks and skates which had washed up on the beach. I wanted to open the purses, to find out if the leathery sacks actually contained a baby shark or not, but spent long minutes filled with anxiety about what I would see if I did. Would the fish still be alive? Would it squirm or move? Having destroyed its haven, could I really just stand there and watch the fetus die? Eventually such thoughts eclipsed all curiosity, and so I always put the purse back down on the sand and left it undisturbed.
In the past my work has held its secrets close, literally enclosed in the sculptural spaces created by curled fingers and closing hands… But now the hands are beginning to open, long sequestered thoughts and feelings finally examined and revealed. Fetus, fish, squid – the lifeless bodies of these creatures appear eerily animate, even grotesque out of context. Yet the hands that hold them nurture as much as they expose, fingers curving around the tiny forms, even as they lift them gently up into the light.”
All images © Tamara Lischka