The story of violence is always a story of power. In Tamara Kostianovsky’s incisive show “Savage Legacy” at Fuller Craft Museum, pillowy sculptures made of clothing depict meat carcasses, dead birds, and tree stumps.
The artist, who is based in Brooklyn, was born in Israel and grew up in Argentina under a military dictatorship. Her father was a plastic surgeon. She sees a continuum from the ease with which we cut into flesh to our society’s disregard for all life.
Meat carcasses such as “Venus” hang red, fatty, and eviscerated from sharp metal hooks. But they’re made from plush fabrics and lace. They are gory but weirdly inviting. You could crawl into the hollow of that ribcage and take a nap.
Kostianovsky plays masterfully with the tension between attraction and repulsion. “Bird Skin” hangs by its feet, wings splayed. It’s unmistakably a slaughtered bird, but the cloth feathers, plump body, and arcing wings resemble a flower bud just opening.
While the forms of these works examine the violence humans do to other creatures, their materials remind us it’s all personal; it’s that close to the skin. We, too, can be objectified — used or killed for someone else’s purposes. It is the story of human history. It is the story of today.
In her recent works, Kostianovsky appraises the scope of colonialist violence, re-creating wallpaper designs sourced from centuries-old European botanical patterns based on idealized images from the colonized Americas.
In “Big Carcass with Inner Tropical Landscape” that idyll papers over butchery. The piece slowly rotates on a meat hook among other carcass sculptures in the center of the gallery. The outside is red and white, at once fleshlike and alluring — floral upholstery, candy-cane stripes. Inside Kostianovsky patches together the flowered wallpaper from strips of fabric. Ropy vines extend from it, and bird sculptures perch on them. What would happen, the piece asks, if the colonizers’ Edenic fantasy was overrun with the very wilderness it depicted?
The work here is cozy, soft, and touchable, making a safe space to reckon with a legacy of violence so intrinsic to our culture, we are inured to it. Kostianovsky offers a way out of the numbness. Honestly, it’s a relief.
TAMARA KOSTIANOVSKY: SAVAGE LEGACY
At Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak St., Brockton, through Aug. 22. 508-588-6000, www.fullercraft.org
Cate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.