The artist’s head, her hands and arms are grafted onto a very stylized body of a dog: Rona Pondick’s steel sculpture Dog (1998-2001) gives rise to a grotesque, disturbing and fascinating creature. By creating this self-portrait, the American artist starts the process of a real metamorphosis. The impression is almost of being in front of the protagonist of the book Metamorphosis or the golden ass of Apuleius, but in this case the man does not completely transform into a donkey but, only halfway, into a dog.

The hybrid creature created by Rona Pondick breaks down the distinctions between animal and human: the artist uses sculpture to represent a physicality that unexpectedly manages to tell us about a psychological dimension. What are the boundaries between rationality and instinct in the human being? Is the artist, in the creative process, like an animal that stands between expectation and action, a guard of thought and production? This sculptural work is the tool chosen to ask these questions and with its gaze directed at the observer it seems to make these same questions fall also on those who enter into a relationship with the mythological creature. If Lucio, the protagonist of Apuleius, found himself forced into the body of a donkey due to his infinite curiosity to learn about magical practices, in the same way perhaps the artist feels stuck in the body of a dog in an attempt to pursue an instinct, a return to the animal to seek a balance between rational and irrational.

The same search for a balance can be found in the choice of the material and the ways in which it is treated: working with silicone, the artist was able to obtain a mold of her face and hands that is characterized by great precision. It should also be noted that Dog is the first mold made by the artist and which will subsequently be used in other of her works as well. The rigor of the cast must however deal with the stylization of the animal: the dog’s body is in fact indistinct and sketched as if to resume that struggle between rational and irrational even in formal choices.

Observing Dog it seems to be inside a dream in which reality mixes with memories and the unconscious in an attempt to find new keys to interpreting reality. The dream seems to be the result of this metamorphosis: the artist, embracing a new version of himself, suggests not to get stuck in the limits, rather to experiment with one’s own thoughts the unexplored dimensions of our human being and therefore animals.

Ronda Pondick
Dog, 1998-2001
Yellow stainless steel, Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London – Paris – Salzburg – Seoul © Rona Pondick