Sheffy Bleier is an Israeli artist based in Jerusalem and she is best known for her use of animal organs in her artistic creations. Bleier is not unique as a “meat artist” however her use of the internal organs differentiates her from those artists who use cut and processed meat to evoke, quite literally, a visceral reaction.
Bleier’s interest in viscera came about during a visit to the local market where she found herself transfixed by a cow’s stomach (not that she knew what it was at the time). The impact this had upon her made her realize the link which is instinctively created not by what you see, but by your spirit and soul. The internal organs may be hidden but here is a deep seated connection – they are an essential part of life, without which nothing exists.
Bleier started her artistic mission to present the inner beauty of the body to our naked eyes. In her words, “To lend new form, content and place to things which, for me, touch upon philosophical ‘truth’.”
Bleier’s exhibits dangle from string in mute testimony to some unknown purpose which they served inside the animal (typically cow). The Organ Garden is guaranteed to make any man wince once the spherical objects suspended in a sac are identified; however it is not simply genitalia which Bleier uses.
The reference to life, particularly our use of living things used for our own sustenance is replete within her body of work. Bleier’s work takes us on a discovery of the “hidden”; the inner workings of the body in a way which Gunther von Hagen’s, “Bodyworks evades. Von Hagen’s commercially celebrated art exhibition featuring human skeletons and preserved organs in a variety of everyday situations from playing poker to making love, somehow miss the point. Von Hagen cosmeticizes and belittles the inner body for commercial titillation, whereas Bleier presents the raw, unadulterated organ which makes the onlooker think for the function.
The organs are naked but they are not raw meat, which is without any shape or form until the artist works it. Organs are already formed, which reduces the fear of that without shape, the so called “horror of the formless”. Instead, the unfamiliar forms provide the element of mystery and compel the observer to question not only what the organ function is, or how it performs its role, but to think of the beauty of something which is so alien and yet so intrinsically a part of us at the same time.
Bleier’s naked organs repel the observer, evocative of the “gizzards” concealed by our beautiful bodies and generally assigned to the medical waste bin of the slaughterhouse or butcher’s stall. In some instances, the organs presented do not appear to be fit for cat foods, but this belies the point – these organs serve a vital purpose in life.
Bleier plays with the concept of the exposing the concealed or the hidden; by turning some of the organs, such as the stomach, inside out the truly hidden interior of the unseen is itself exposed to the light.