Catherine McIntyre’s Embodied Natures

Catherine McIntyre is perhaps the world’s finest digital artist. Currently engaged in computer-based illustration and graphic design, she developed a fascination with anatomy and form as a masters student in photography. She collages and coheres arresting images that combine natural and artifactual objects. Some of her images are cyborgs, others are chimeras, many are nudes. All depend on sophisticated visual juxtapositions, interlaced with themes of ageing, decay, foreboding, vulnerability, nature, culture, strength, resistance and communication.

Some viewers may be distracted by the nudity in her work. As for why she uses the nude, she says:

‘Many of the pictures include the naked figure. The nude is a natural symbol of the laying-bare of innermost feelings, and has been a continuing metaphor in my work. It can radiate well-being, or vulnerability and weakness; it can symbolise humanity’s deepest essence, or that of the natural world; it can be idealised, realistic, grotesque, dismembered, impersonal, abstracted. … The endless ways of representing the nude all carry with them resonances inevitably associated with the depiction of ourselves at our most unprotected. It has become, for me, a symbol of veracity, lack of pretence, honesty – and vulnerability. I find images of the nude impossible to ignore’. (McIntyre, 2000,

I agree. Her work is a visual feast, undeniably lovely, sensual and bare in its many connotations. Impossible to ignore. The sensuality embedded in much of her work is a joy, part of an embodied human life which our culture has a difficult time viewing or discussing without lapsing into prudery or political correctness. Yet her use of chimeras, cyborgs and nature/culture intersections resonate in a different key. They bespeak our arrogance towards animals, hubris towards nature and evil done ourselves. ‘Helix’ is classic McIntyre, juxtaposing artifactual stairwells and the nude to reference the DNA that is one esse of our earthly being. ‘Deus ex Machina’ highlights our mechanical approach to life through the manipulations of biotechnology. ‘Please Write’ intricates the longings of our bodies, hearts and minds, with the loneliness, betrayal and abandonment thrust on us by life. ‘Jac’ filled my eyes with tears the first time I saw him. No one teaches about love or the golden rule as well as our animal companions. A domestic canid with the wings of Pegasus who walks on water comes as no surprise to those of us blessed by non-human friendship.

You may find more of her work at Catherine McIntyre: Digital Illustration. Her extradinary book, Deliquescence (2000), is available from amazon.


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