© 2020 Riva Lehrer. All rights reserved.

Jessica/Hyena

2011, acrylic and paper on wood

 

Artist and animal rescue worker Jessica Johnson. Though Jessica is straight and cisgender, being neither transgender or gay, she evinces an intensely ironic view of femininity.

 

I chose Hyena as her mirror because they are complex and paradoxical creatures. What people assume of them, and what they are in reality, is often quite different. Hyenas seem canine due to their appearance and behavior, but are much closer to felines. They have a reputation as “cowardly” scavengers, yet most species hunt and kill most of their prey. It is extremely difficult to tell the male Hyena from the female, as external genitalia is almost identical. The female Hyena has the largest proportional clitoris in the animal kingdom, closely resembling the male penis. The strangely humanoid laugh of the Hyena seems to make them were-beasts.

 

The Hyena is a quintessential Trickster figure indeed.

 

In Jessica’s portrait, she shreds scraps of color which are consumed and expelled by her mask. A hermaphroditic figure blows apart even as it comes together.

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