(Wo)man and Beast in the Round of Their Need

Farm boys wild to couple
With anything with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pinestraw will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns.

In a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There’s this thing that’s only half
Sheep like a wooly baby
Pickled in alcohol.
Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying saying

I am here, in my father’s house
I who am half of your world, came deeply
To my mother in the long grass
Of the sweet pasture, where she stood like moonlight
Listening for foxes. It was something like love
From another world that seized her
From behind, and she gave, not lifting her head
Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
Self to that great need.

Turned loose, she dipped her face
Further into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
Of sobbing of something stumbling
Away, began, as she must do, to carry me.
In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human, I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and beast in the round of their need.
My hoof and my hand clasped each other
And the hill wind stirred in my wool.

(A freely adapted translation of “The Sheep Child”, from James Dickey: The Selected Poems, Wesleyan University Press, 1998).”

Ambera Wellmann is a Canadian artist working in painting, assemblage, photography and video. Wellmann graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (2011) and earned her MFA from the University of Guelph, Ontario (2016). She is the recipient of the Joseph Plaskett award (2016) and the recipient of the RBC Canadian Painting Award (2017).

Her works have been exhibited at the Power Plant, Toronto, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and the National Gallery of Canada. She currently lives and works in Berlin. Wellmann gratefully acknowledges the support from the Canada Council of the Arts.

In this recent series of paintings, Wellmann continues her investigation of porcelain as a bodily substitute and a vehicle for perversion, manipulating the sensuality of painted surfaces to blur the distinctions between material and flesh. Wellmann’s paintings hybridize a range of canonical motifs, transposing the grandiosity of historical figuration into intimately realized, darkly humorous works.