As a storyteller, multidisciplinary artist Patricia Piccinini hints at the possibilities of new Earth-dwelling species, modes of resilience, and evolutionary potentials in response to our changing Earth/home.

With encounters of another plot — on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, through October 29 — Piccinini continues her narrative inquiry into people’s relationships with the world and the shifting border between artificial and natural.

Working primarily in a hyperrealist tradition of sculpture, Piccinini gathers information from scientific research and current events to envision genetically and physically adapted creatures. These new beings are akin to Earth creatures but armed with reconfigured bodies and new survival mechanisms.

The exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center features a life-size diorama sheltering Piccinini’s sculptures, which was collaboratively constructed using recycled materials. The diorama is accompanied by a film following the journey of a human animal and a fictional Earth being walking through Australian landscapes.

Patricia Piccinini: encounters of another plot installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2023 (photo: Drome Studio, courtesy the artist and Hosfelt Gallery)

According to Piccinini, her artistic practice “is focused on bodies and relationships: the relationships between people and other creatures, between people and our bodies, between creatures and the environment, between the artificial and the natural. I am particularly interested in the way that the everyday realities of the world around us change these relations.”

The artist hopes to offer the chance to emotionally connect with the sculptures through her depiction of recognizable physical and emotive mannerisms. Gallery visitors encounter scenes of mothering, fear, and alertness. The sculptures’ mammalian bodies and expressions are intended to reduce the option for dissociation; any discomfort that may arise could be the result of making eye contact with an unfamiliar relative.

Piccinini, who lives and works in Australia, begins each artwork with drawings. Then, she and a small team translate the concepts and designs into sculptures. Hand- and computer-based techniques are used to create the works, which are often composed of silicone, human hair, and fiberglass.

Piccinini’s artwork aims to question the ways that contemporary technology and culture change our understanding of what it means to be human, and wonders at our relationships with — and responsibilities toward — that which we create. While ethics are central, she strives for her approach to be ambiguous and inquisitive rather than moralistic and didactic.

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Encounters of another plot is supported by the Kohler Trust for Arts and Education, Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.