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Using the empathic gaze as the central concept in the work the NEXT OF KIN PORTRAITS were created in response to the pressing topic of the biodiversity extinction crisis. The kinetic light boxes are made up of portraits taken of taxidermied specimen of endangered species from collections on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. These large-scale reflective portraits of endangered animals amplify our connection to the subjects through an enforced (literal) engagement of the viewer with the topic.

Isolated in front of a dark background with each animal’s “face” centered in the frame, the portraits were taken from an angle that give the sense that the animals are looking straight at the viewer. These images, printed as Duratrans, are set into light boxes that are fitted with a two-way mirror as their front panel. The light boxes shift with the ambient light in an exhibition space. When ambient light is bright the animals’ faces are barely perceptible, registering as a trace or ghost that intermingles with the reflection of the viewer’s own face. When the ambient light dims the animals’ faces brighten and eventually replace the face of the viewer.

The mirroring effects of the works play out metaphors that point to the edge of a great loss we are now entangled in and the pieces work to engage the viewer directly in this discourse as they see themselves replace the images of the species depicted. The set aims to build an emotional bridge between viewer and subject, art and science, and a considered look at the fate of our next of kin in the animal kingdom.

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