Making art from stripped-down dead animals
"SOMETIMES I go to pet shops and ask whether I can receive dead creatures."
And then 29-year-old Iori Tomita, from Yokohama, Japan, does incredible things to them. Taking up to a year, he gently rinses the animals with enzymes that break down soft tissue and protein. What is left is what he calls the transparent specimen: cartilage, which he dyes blue, and bone, dyed purple. “People are attracted by the beauty of creatures,” he says. “Formalin specimens look grotesque.”
Most of the material that Tomita uses in his art comes from fishermen – he used to be one until he was 25 – discarded dead crabs, squid, unsold deep-sea fish, unwanted tiddlers. And then there are the macabre packages from pet shops. Tomita still fishes, but his life changed when he visited an art gallery for the first time two years ago and realised that he could fuse his love of nature with what was regarded as art.
There is a moral dimension to the work, too. He quotes a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report showing that a third of all food produced for human consumption each year is wasted. “Do you think about how many lives that is?” he asks.
Tomita – who says he has thought about but rejected the idea of making transparent artworks of dead humans – sells prints and, in Japan, bottled specimens of stripped-down animals.
(Images: Iori Tomita/2013 New World Transparent Specimens)