Pig Skin Portraits by Heide Hatry

I knew there was something strange about these portraits when I first looked at them but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought the eyes had a realness about them that is hard to create, which turned out to be partly correct.

The artist Heide Hatry created these weird little creations with animal skin and body parts. So the eyes are real, but they’re real pigs eyes. The lips are raw flesh and the skin is from a pig.

Heide Hatry pig skin heads

Heide Hatry pig skin portraits

In her statement from here website, Heide Hatry says.. “My intention with the work was to make it as life-like as possible, vivid and sometimes disposed in positions suggesting movement. I used untreated pigskin to cover a sculpture I had made out of clay, with raw meat for the lips and fresh pig eyes in order that the resulting portrait would appear as if it were looking at the viewer with a vital expression which the photographer had just captured at that moment. In fact, a photographer taking a picture of a model does more or less what I’ve done with my sculptures: the model will be made up, its hair will be done, appropriate lighting and pose will be chosen, etc. Or, if you prefer, what I am doing is reminiscent of what a mortician does in preparing a corpse for viewing: creating the illusion of life where there is none.”

She is currently showing at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Heads and Tales” finishes on the 17th of March. View more of the portraits at the artist’s website here or see a slideshow of images on the Phoenix newspaper.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Anonymous says:

    They look like dead people.

  2. This work is very compelling. I wonder if this has been done before? It would be neat to make complete figures like this. That is, it would be interesting to see them. I wouldn’t want to do this kind of think myself!

    I wonder, to what extent is it the photography aspect of it that makes them good?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nothing short of gross!!

  4. OK, this is interesting. I use to work in a funeral home and saw a lot of things, believe me. Despite the visual condition of bodies in all shapes and forms I was not put off due the fact it was EXTREMELY apparent the essence/soul/spirit of each individuals was no longer there, truly. I was affected deeply by the sorrow and anguish each family was experiencing at their loss of a beloved family member, but as far as bodies disturbing me, no. Having written that, viewing what this artist does with the pig flesh and eyes and constructing human form, this is another matter entirely, disturbs me, go figure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Looking through the slide show, I thought I recognized a woman I used to date. And yet, she had called me a pig…

  6. They’re like a cross between a wax work and something from ‘Silence of the Lambs’.

    I can imagine Jake and Dinos Chapman making even more grotesque things than this if they had free reign with pig skins and animal parts.

  7. I think this work shows how difficult it is to make realistic-looking skin out of other materials. If these portraits were out of wood or rubber, they probably would not be compelling at all. But as they are, they are fascinating.

  8. It is interesting, but is it art? I view that travelling collection of plasticized and splayed human bodies more art than this, sorta cross between those little dried apple faced people and a wax museum.

    i dont feel much beyond interest in the appearance of the raw skin and eyes, we do share 99%+ genes. And the interest wears off quickly. Doesnt have the absolute horror of the Nazis using human skin for lampshades, or the historical and cultural appeal of a mummy. Used to have a old driedup carcass of what was claimed to be Mexican bandido at the old Pike amuseument park here in the LBC. This is more just weird. Inspite of all her justifications and supposed revelations of human gender and death, I still ask, why? Seems more to bring attention to oneself than anythng else, kinda needy.

    But not for long, got better things to think of, but amusing nonetheless. March Madness is upon us, I see more human drama and passion in college basketball than most contemporary art. Go Bruins! Coached and know alot of these kids so I am biased. Backup point guard at UCLA was my sons backup for years, go figure. Good kid, used to go to church with them.

    Another case of
    art collegia delenda est

  9. this is extremely interesting work.
    i look forward to seeing this artist’s website.

  10. the most interesting works i have seen in a long time. i think the idea is brilliant and the shock value forces you confront the images on a level that is quite uncomfortable, but you can’t help being drawn into these grotesque and beautifully intricate heads.

    i don’t understand why people get so shocked when organic animal tissues are used for art when animals and other living things have been exploited for human sustenance and indulgence since the beginning of time (with our present understanding(s) of history, at least).


  11. don’t understand why people get so shocked when organic animal tissues are used for art when animals and other living things have been exploited for human sustenance and indulgence since the beginning of time (with our present understanding(s) of history, at least).

    I was thinking the same thing, PnB. I looked at this work yesterday and I’m still thinking about it, but I turned image loading off on my browser because I don’t want to see it.

    For the truly daring artist: do this pig skin thing, but put it in some explicit pornographic direction. That would be REALLY disturbing. Something for a New York artist, maybe.

  12. Here’s a link to the weird little world of Jake and Dinos Chapman for those that like/are interested in the grotesque:


  13. Now this is something new. At least to me. I am usually attracted to the macabre and the strange. But the stark realism of these pieces, maybe the stillness of the eyes, pull me a little too close to death than I’d like to be…

    Lend Me Your Eyes

  14. We’re all looking and commenting so it’s acheived something??

  15. We’re all looking and commenting so it’s acheived something??

    But have we said anything worth saying? ;-)

    But seriously, I’m looking forward to the next post, something not so grim maybe?

  16. The first blog I read about my work, which is interesting and achieves what I want.

    Shock is actually the opposite of what I want: shock deadens the senses and numbs the mind. I’m trying to stimulate thought.
    I am trying to have effects, but effects on people’s thinking. Sometimes to make people begin to think you have to do something strong, something that grabs you by the neck and wakes you up. To make you aware, to feel something, even to smell something, is something you don’t normally experience in an art gallery, but it is something that also reaches other parts of our brains and feelings.

    Death is the most ordinary thing in the world, one of the few things everybody has in common. The idea that it is still subject of taboo, seems to be for me a vestige of another era – by which I don’t mean to say primitive. Death is understood in the primitive world; it is the later stages of civilization in which it becomes an object of such horror that it cannot be looked in the face as a part of life.

    I would like torespond on one other comment :
    Being German is a legacy of torment. No matter how many generations of innocent beings like myself will populate the earth, the German race committed the worst atrocity of all the horrible atrocities of our atrocious race. No amount of German innocence, good will or humanity
    will ever overcome the horrible fact with which my race will always be associated.

    To assert that the Nazis didn’t actually make lampshades out of skin — that seems to be widely acknowledged as a myth — is like saying: At least they didn’t rape the dead bodies after they murdered them in a horrible way.

    I can’t say that this image was in my head when I began working with the material, though. I didn’t even realize the connection with my own upbringing until well into the body of work – my sister said to me, “so, you’ve come home at last.” And I replied, “what do you mean?” “Working with pigskin, of course.” (I grew up on a pig farm) I was actually flabbergasted. For me that somehow suggested that my motives were a bit more universal than personal, and not terribly related to the history of my race. But there would certainly be quite a lot to be said about the fact of a German making sculptures out of skin. I won’t resume to draw the lines of thought it invokes, but I’ve certainly thought about it a bit by now.

    Heide Hatry

  17. Hi Heide,

    Wonderful that you joined the discussion.

    I didn’t realize that you are German (Heide is a common name in America as well, I think). And so, I didn’t connect the work to the Nazi history (I don’t mean to imply that every time a German artist does something, the Third Reich must be brought into the story, you did bring it up). I think my initial response might be useful to you, because my response was to the work itself without historical connotations. I found it, in isolation, immensely powerful. I think you should go further with this, make double portraits, for example. Full figures. To be honest, I am far more interested in the work separated from external “statement” as in, something about the Nazis, or, something about industrialized slaughterhouses. The intrinsic qualities of the work, your talent as a sculptor, your use of the material for intrinsic aesthetic effect, these are far more important. Beautiful and chilling.

  18. Heidi there is no such thing as the German Race – as a German you are probably part of the European race which includes many nationalities (Germany being a nation not a race). Europeans as a race have a rich history of atrocity to other races dating back beyond the Romans (the Romans were also not a race but were European racially) There are many pubs in England by the name of The Turks Head or Lamb & Flag which are references to our former crusades in which muslim and jew were slaughtered across Europe and Palestine for the glory of god.(many of these pubs do however sell excellent beer so don’t be put off by the name…) The nations of the UK sent many members of our race to Australia and the USA, etc where aboriginals were shot like kangeroos and coyotes and to Africa to buy cheap slaves many who worked to death to supply cheap sugar.

    What is often forgotten is that the English also have a rich tradition of serious unpleasantness to other English people sending small boys up chimneys, millions killed and maimed over the royal family tiff (also known as WW1)and even worse.. petty criminals and early Trade Unionists made to go and live in Australia… sometimes for several years!

    But thats all distant history… now we keep our traditions alive by helping americans to kill Iraqis (2000 civilians per month being a conservative estimate of the death toll since the invasion) and in supporting Israel in it’s punishment killings of 1500 (more than half women and children) last Christmas in Gaza. Both these conflicts give the world many truly horrific images – the Sudan and many other locations provide images as bad as any from the days of slavery or the Nazis… but much better to beat ourselves up over things done by our grandparents than look at the things done in our name today.

    This post and Heidis work has me thinking but what a lot of gloomy thoughts… thank goodness it’s time for lunch… maybe a bacon roll and a beer at the Turks Head would cheer me up?

  19. Earl is right, though there is only one race, and that is to be human. No group is innocent of it. The native Americans regularly roasted their captives to see if they would cry, and take their women and children into slavery. And what the Aztecs, and now being discovered, Mayans did was as bad as it gets. The Mongols and others perpetuated mass murders and pain. Africans have slaughtered each other as have Arabs and Jews, actualy as much the same people, Semites, as Germans, Austrians, Dutch and even Scandanavians, as all are Teutonic.

    Even Earls Brits are Anglo-Saxon-Jute, German tribes that conquered the Britons of King Arthur. Who had invaded earlier and vanquished a previous peoples. And there is no such thing as a Pure race. That is a romantic myth, we have all cross bred for as long as humans have existed and migrated. “Races” came about from isolation for hundreds and thousands of years, some traits take a dominant role.But people have always migrated adn joined to create new peoples, ther are no hard lines, except in peoples limited intellects. Early on languages evolved, which is more how we label folks now.

    But in places like here in LA most white folks are jsut western European mutts, and even lots of slavic and Eastern Mediterranian. And all black folks are mixed with white or native Americans. Hell, here in the LBC we got mutts of all shades and backgrounds, Tiger Woods grew up a few miles East of here and is mostly Asian. My son is a swirl, black and white. Obama would be right at home.

    No, you Germans need to get over it. I thought Anselm Kiefer had pretty much sewed it all up, and presented it in ways that touched all humans, where we could all relate to mans inhumanity, yet also the search for soul. We need to keep it in view, never forget what is inside all of us, everywhere, at any and all times. You are one example is all. Turks-Armenians, Poles-Jews, Tutsi-Hutus, as the Ibo in Nigeria were. Sudan as Earl stated. Pakistan and India the most likely place for a nuclear war. For they view one another as nonhuman. Jews and Arabs now, the jews far from being the only guilty party.

    No, that is not art. Art is placing oneself into the universe, losing ones individualty, and that means collective guilt too. We are all guilty. I like my swine, though my wife was raised Muslim and I cant have any. The sacrifices we must make. Pork skin is just not that interesting, what I got was the eyes, and that we are all animals. Nothing to do with human guilt. This might make one think, but it isnt art. Art does have a definition, just that no one wants to accept it, and so it is the formless mush we have today.

    To say that anything is art means nothing is. Art is a word, a symbol, and is meaningless without a definition. I dont feel the same things viewing Demoiselles d’Avignon or The Birth of Venus as I feel viewng this. It is mild interest. Not passionate desolution of my personality, being at one with the universe, This points out our defects, not inspires our ambition to be more.

    Art is needed now, and personal issues must be laid aside. We are in trouble as a people, as humans, and need to vigorously strive to achieve more.
    To become one, as humans, with nature, and before god. That is art. Creative art. This is more illustrative art, as it seems to need context and literature to go wiht it, and been done before. This does not help, we need positivbe realism, finding what binds us together, not seperates, or we are doomed. It is not about you, or me. We are but tiny blips, which is fine by me, as then i am part of so much more. That is art.

    The individual and his insignificant concerns are not important, what drives humanity to beter itself, to adapt to reality, to learn it, to live with, not control, this is what we must do. And what Creative Art has always done. Do not mix it with the myriad other forms of art, or it becomes lost, as do we all.

    art collegia delenda est

  20. Oh my. I don’t quite know what to think.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think that this is absolutely disrespectful to the pigs. Simply, simply horrible.

  22. Poor pigs…Poor sharks, lambs and cows… With their remains they have to pay for someone’s lack of taste and creativity……=(

    It’s ugly and terrible. Where are the animal’s protectors?

    I wish someone make pig’s statue and then cover it with this “artst’s” skin.
    Now THAT will be qrotesque…. I’ll vote with both hands for it, when it will be displayed in the Gagosyan gallery!

  23. the chef says:

    this makes me hungry. If I were to have created this It would be a “happy meal” and my entrée would be smiling.

  24. This has stimulated thought, as the artist hoped. Here is my thought:

    Blech. Especially the one with flies.


    I’m just not into this kind of thing. We recently had the Bodyworks exhibit here, and I was grossed out by that too.

  25. the horribleness and revulsion these works inspire is what the abuse of women should inspire. Unfortunately the same revulsion doesn’t exist for all the Women and girls who are treated like meat, abused and trafficked. There is an indifference that is disturbing.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I think its wonderfully innovative! Its not that gross considering how many people in the work EAT pig flesh :D

  27. I’m mortified and fascinated at the same time. I don’t know if it’s because of the effect of the uncanny valley, or what, but I can’t stop gazing at these. Brilliant.


  1. [...] only know of Heide Hatry through her pigskin portraits of people. They were fascinating and intriguing but also weird and a little bit ugly. Her new work at Stux [...]

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