Collection Artwork
Nayland Blake (born New York, New York, 1960)
The Little One
1994
nylon suit over porcelain form, ribbon
overall size: 26 x 20 x 4 1/2 in.
John Silberman in honor of Jack Shear
2016.13.4

Installation views

Object Label

“I hope that people are willing to give the works time, to allow them to unfold beyond the time that they may actually be looking at them.”
—Nayland Blake

The bunny motif is somewhat mysterious in Nayland Blake’s work. As a doll, the bunny is cuddly, warm, a child’s toy; as an animal, it is sexual, wild, fast-moving. In the hands of Blake, the bunny can become foreboding or befuddling, with endless possibilities for seduction and curiosity.

The many bunnies of pop culture offer options for interpretation. Brer Rabbit, a character from the late 19th-century Uncle Remus fables, based on African folktales, was a trickster. In “The Wonderful Tar Baby Story,” a fox uses a tar figure to snatch a rabbit, but, after finding itself trapped, Brer Rabbit outsmarts and escapes the fox—metaphors can be made to white masters and enslaved people or to contemporary marginalized communities. But Blake’s work is never so straightforward: in The Little One, the rabbit costume contains the “tar baby.” There is also Bugs Bunny, who is known to wear drag and reference minstrelsy; or the rabbit pulled out of the hat; or the Greek goddess of love and lust, Aphrodite, whose symbol is sometimes a rabbit.

Blake offers space for multiple readings, embracing the ambiguity of the symbol.

From the exhibition: Beauty and Bite (July 20, 2019 – January 19, 2020)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

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Beauty and Bite
Exhibition
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Pattern by Monica Andrews '19
Inspired by the exhibition 3-D Doings: The Imagist Object in Chicago Art, 1964-1980
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.