Jamie Isenstein


I made a sculpture of a stack of rugs, like how rugs are sold at rug stores. The idea was to make a sculpture based on Aesop's fable of deception, The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. At the bottom is a house rug, then a Jamie rug, wolf rug, sheepskin rug, and on top is a bear rug. Everybody is hiding in someone else's clothes—I'm trying to be the wolf, the wolf is trying to be the sheep, and the sheep is trying to be the bear. The stack of rugs also happens to be a history of civilization—from caveman furnishings to modern apartment furnishings. In this photo, you see my head. In the final version, my head is swallowed by the wolf's head.

Also in this photo is the American bear. I made the work for the 2009 Manchester International Festival. I didn't want to buy a newly killed bear so I purchased an old one from a guy in New Jersey who was selling his mother's rug online. The bear was trampled and half its claws were missing so I remade the claws and felt border until it looked decent again. Not long before the work was to be shipped to Manchester, I learned I needed a CITES permit (proof that the bear was caught legally) in order for it to cross international borders. The man who sold me the bear definitely did not have any paperwork for it. I then learned I only needed the permit if the bear was caught after 1975. Aha! Earlier, while unstuffing the bear's head, I discovered wads of newsprint from 1965. I spoke to an officer at the Fish and Wild Life Service, and he agreed to look at the bear and the newsprint. I packed up the bear and took it on the train to the Fish and Wild Life agency on Long Island. Rather than giving me a waiver the commanding officer accused me of planting old newsprint in a perfectly new bear's head. I huffed home and, in a panic, called every English taxidermy shop I could find online. It turns out bears have been extinct in England since the 10th century. Eventually I found an imported bear at a prop shop in the Midlands countryside. So now there are two versions of the work, the American version and the version for everywhere else.