Ontario, Canada based sculptor Mary Catherine Newcomb has an uncanny affinity for hares. The shy long-eared woodland creature has been a recurring symbol in the artist’s work for more than 25 years. Earlier this year, in an exhibition at the Loop Gallery in Toronto, Newcomb used turf over armature to create an 8-foot long reclining hare. In 2011, the artist installed another version of the “Great Hare” at the Cambridge Sculpture Garden for CAFKA. This outdoor “Great Hare” was 15 feet long and constructed from turf grown over compost and topsoil.
When asked in an interview last year (2012) with the World of Threads Festival about the project which has given her (Newcomb) the most satisfaction, the artist responded,”Right now I would say that the Great Hare has given me the most satisfaction. He was planted in early August and allowed to grow with minor pruning until the middle of September. It was just a fuzzy rabbit shape. In the middle of September I spent a few days combing, cutting, adding moss for eyes and nose and all at once he really seemed alive. I had no idea if this was going to happen. When you stroke the grass, you really feel as though you are touching a live creature (as you are) and it is quite pleasant to comb him. I am pleased with the way that the piece equates plant aliveness and animal aliveness, and with the size and location.”
By using a living plant material like grassy turf to represent a living animal creature, Newcomb appears to be questioning the divisions we place between different life forms. Whether plant or animal, I’d love to meet one of these characters in my backyard.