First published: Summer 2017

Jordan MacLachlan is a storyteller, describing to us what is, what was, and what could be. Sometimes the stories are a Grimms’ fairy tale of horror; others are benevolent and quirky propositions that ask, what if this happened?

MacLachlan’s collection of clay figures, called “Unexpected Subway Living”, is one example of her invented world. Contemplating a catastrophe that forces people and animals into the underworld of subways, her 300 sculptures populate a 24-foot surface, doing ordinary and extraordinary things, from a man smoking a cigarette to a headless woman walking a sounder of swine. In the midst of this chaos are MacLachlan’s ubiquitous animals, behaving as unpredictably as creatures often do.

 “Unexpected Subway Living” is part of a larger collection called “Ways of Living”. They both touch upon things that are difficult to articulate because they are oh-so-familiar, painful, or cringe-worthy. “Condo Living” opens a window into the lives of its inhabitants, who are engaged in activities from the mundane to the private and intensely personal. They stretch their tired muscles after a day of work, share a drink with friends, or indulge in intimate acts of passion. As we examine their lives, one of them peers back at us with binoculars: the voyeur encounters the voyeur.

 


Woman with Three Pigs, “Subway” series 2015, clay, paint

“Zoo Living” examines the complex relationship between humans and animals, where the inhabitants occupy an unrestrained world and boundaries between species begin to blur. A fine tension holds these inhabitants together. Creatures spew golden locks of hair; some are hybrids, like the “rhinelephant”; others are attacked by poachers or attack humans who cross their path. An exhausted kangaroo lies sleeping on a knitted, fur-fringed robe, having perhaps been too exhausted to remove her boxing gloves before blessed sleep arrives.

There would be no world in which MacLachlan did not feature animals. Her kinship with them runs deep. Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1959, from a very young age she felt a deep affinity with animals. She wove a fantasy family story for herself, choosing to believe she was an abandoned mountain lion cub whose mother had been shot, leaving her to be raised by an adoptive human family. With the tacit acceptance of her parents, she crawled around on all fours, not wanting to speak, and eating from a dish on the floor. Going to school interrupted that dream, but she spent her after-school hours absorbed in making clay sculptures of animals. Fitting in with her peers became increasingly difficult as she progressed through school. It was a sad moment when she had to stop “being an animal”, around the age of 12. Still preoccupied with animals, she drew pictures of them, watched nature programmes on television and taught herself how to shape them out of clay. Making clay animals became her refuge as she grew older and life fell apart around her. They were her darlings. That obsession with animals never ended, and a significant portion of MacLachlan’s work still features them in one way or another. They leave you with the uncomfortable reminder that we are, indeed, animals by nature.
 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #94.

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