Chele Dentatus triggerfish skull, fountain grass, 9 x 7 x 2 inches, 2009
Chele Dentatus
Triggerfish skull, fountain grass, 9 x 7 x 2 inches, 2009

Little by little, Brooklyn artist Julie Anne Mann has been discovering a new set of species in Brooklyn, NY. Dubbed Mortifera (Latin for dead or deadly animals), these creamy-colored skeletal creatures are adorned with a wide variety of spikes, fur and wings seemingly borrowed from nature’s more well-known animals and plants. Dandelion seeds, porcupine quills, butterfly wings and crustacean shells seem to have found their way onto the bodies of the Mortifera critters. From Ms. Mann’s website:

These works are the reconfiguration of common animals into mutant or hybrid creatures. Some are purely animal, using a Frankensteinian approach of multiple parts from different donors, while others are the possible results of genetically engineered or natural crossbreeds between animal/flora.

While they are traditionally scientific in their immediate appeal (each specimen is titled in Latin reflecting it’s attributes, and are reminiscent of Darwinian evolutionary samples) it is difficult to discern whether they are extinct animals undiscovered from the past or the future of animals to come. Familiar and alien at the same time, they resemble insects/animals from a dead world while still retaining the elegance and symmetry found in our immensely diverse eco-structure.

The creatures of Mortifera exist in a netherworld of what is possible or possibly lost. Constructed from remnants of the dead, they have the power to present a somber view of a failing planet and remind us of the transient, ephemeral quality of nature but also it’s beauty and wonder. Either singularly or as group they create a portrait that glorifies man’s historic accomplishments in natural science while acknowledging the difficult road ahead.

Another work of Ms. Mann’s, Deer Garden, was recently on view outdoors in the Hoyt Street Garden located on the corners of Hoyt Street and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn. In this installation, three beautiful white deer pleasantly gazed at passers by, thus gently grasping their curiosity. The deer have since left, but you can see them, the Mortifera and more of Julie’s artwork on her website at

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