A Pyrrhic Beauty
by Kóan Jeff Baysa
Artist-activist Linda Frost holds a fiery candle up close to the volatile subject of the use of animals in experimentations by her stunning series of digital collages, “Tortured Souls” (2005). Up to an estimated 100 million animals worldwide are used in testing; some are killed during the experiments, others are subsequently euthanized. This remarkable series focuses on the “haunted humanistic eyes of the animal subjects” through riveting images as “The Patient” and its crafted anthropomorphism and the glaring pair of eyes that remain accusingly constant as layers of flesh are stripped away in “Triptych.” Unspeakable pain is depicted in the torturous multiple piercing of the heads of nonhuman primates in “Thinking Cap” and “Machine Head,” pushing the limits of cruelty as well as credulity.
The lack of eye pigment in albino rabbits allows induced irritation to be more clearly observed in testing with cosmetics. In “Acid Washed” a vanity mirror reflecting model beauty, laid in sequence with a dropper of an intensely red liquid, the view of a retina, and an albino rabbit, drive this point sharply home. A commentary on murine testing is seen in “Time and Space” in which the similarly bent morphologies of a dead mouse and a preserved embryo are sequenced with two other objects in a dead-end timeline.
Animal research is certainly controversial with impassioned opposing camps and a range that spans near-apathy to animal rights fanaticism. Although her messages fall at risk of becoming subsumed beneath the skillful attention-grabbing and shockingly graphic representation, Frost’s purpose and competence rescue them from perilously over-aestheticizing the very issues that she is critiquing. Her goals are solidly supported in parallel by a range of organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the Humane Society of the United States, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
Kóan Jeff Baysa is an independent curator, writer, specialist physician and alumnus of the Whitney Independent Study Program in Curatorial Studies. His writing appears in gallery and museum catalogues, art periodicals, website journals, and medical science publications.
“Echoes” Exhibition Commentary
by Betty Ann Brown, Ph.D., Pasadena, March 2007
Linda Frost asks not what our synthetic products are doing to us, but what we are doing to ourselves. She makes this interrogation by exploring the abuses of genetic research and manipulation. The horrors of scientific hubris stare out at us from her Petri dishes and test subjects, Although animals share the vast majority of humanity’s genetic make-up, Western Culture has positioned man as dominant and the animal world as separate and subordinate. As a result, most scientists feel little or no remorse about torturing and killing animals in the process of an experiment. As Nobel Laureate physicist Murray Gell-Mann reminds us, “Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree.”