A menagerie of curiosities line the hallways of Transylvania University’s Brown Science Center — from mounted birds to 19th-century medical paraphernalia.
A recent addition to the third floor is the skeleton of a 20-foot-long Thoroughbred.
This elongated equine never straddled great swaths of Kentucky bluegrass, nor was it ever ridden by a row of jockeys. It’s a sculpture — made of real Thoroughbred bones, nonetheless — by Transylvania art professor Zoé Strecker.
Her artwork Breeder’s Envy (Makrospondylitic Thoroughbred Skeleton Mount) stands behind red velvet rope as if it were in “some fantasy natural history museum,” she said. (Strecker also painted the wall behind the horse a deeper gray so the color of the bones would stand out.)
This isn’t the first time she has trotted out Breeder’s Envy for display. Just after Strecker made it in 2013, the sculpture was part of a show at the Land of Tomorrow Gallery in Louisville — during the Kentucky Derby, of course.
The Thoroughbred racehorse is an extremely specialized agricultural product of this particular place, a result of uniquely rich soil and centuries of intensive selective breeding practices.
Breeder’s Envy is the stretch limousine of Thoroughbreds. The outrageous length addresses human extravagance in manipulating animals by breeding, or by genetic modification, to suit our desires. Its virile posture suggests a raw, thrilling power. What right do we have to create new animals by such alterations? What if the redesigned animal is less healthy, or even disabled, by the features we promote? Can the Thoroughbred still be considered a “natural” organism?
A preserved skeleton is familiar as tool for scientific inquiry. A formal mount is also a “trophy” that provides taxidermic proof of the prowess of the breeder, hunter or specimen collector. In this artwork, I present an extreme version of such a cultural artifact. It is perverse, because it is simultaneously enviable, horrific and humorous.
Contact Laura Ray Warren for more information.