Mother and Child, Divided

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Damien Hirst, Mother and Child, Divided, 1993
By SARAH XU

"I have a lot of strong memories of religious imagery. We had a big illustrated bible and when I was young I would go straight to the crucifixion or severed head pages." ~Damien Hirst

When Damien Hirst graduated from college, he accepted a job in a morgue. He soon learned that the constant exposure to dead human beings removed the shock of death. However, even after spending months surrounded by dead organisms, Hirst’s hunger to learn more about death was not satiated.

Usually, religion is viewed as something positive and something highly respected. Viewers may see the similarities between religious pieces of art and Hirst’s unique type of artwork. Mother and Child, Divided is an accurate representation of Hirst’s thoughts about religion. The artwork contains one cow and one calf, but they are split into two and placed in four separate tanks. Hirst purposely left enough space in between the halves of the cow and the calf to allow visitors to walk in between the two parts and see the inner workings of a cow in all its glory. The mother and child are both separated from each other, but also separated from themselves. Besides religion, Sigmund Freud's theories also had an influence on Hirst's work. The unattainable goal of finding or keeping unity is a theme often seen in psychoanalysis.

Although viewers constantly debate if Hirst’s artwork should be considered “art,” Hirst believes the bisecting, and sometimes the skinning, of animals offers his audience the possibility to view things in a new way, but also as a way to create emotions scientifically. Hirst even commented that after the animals in his artwork have died and are floating in formaldehyde, they have “more personality than any cows walking about in fields.” Not only is Hirst’s artwork a danger to viewers vomiting, his artwork may have a permanent impact on the viewers’ health. The solution Hirst uses to preserve his artwork has recently been found to be leaking into the viewing rooms, causing the ppm to rise to 5 ppm (parts per million), which is ten times above suggested number. However, don't be a coward, experiencing Hirst's unique artwork is well worth the possible side effects. 

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