Human Dog Hybrid

The strange, half-human creatures in the image above are neither real nor a hoax; they are elements of a sculpture by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini entitled "The Young Family," which, in turn, is part of a larger installation called "We Are Family," described by Jane Silversmith of the Australian Council for the Arts as an exploration of "the changing relationship between what is considered natural and what is considered artificial."

"Piccinini's works animate the promise and the perils of the runaway scientific developments that pervade our time," Silversmith continues. "Her art embodies our dreams -- dreams of perfect children, of perfect health, of life disease-free, and articulates the value of difference and uncertainty in human life."

Characterized variously as "sow-like," "half-human, half-dog" and "trans-species," Piccinini's silicone creatures are unsettling, even disturbing, to look at, because they blur the boundary between human and animal in such a lifelike way. It is a timely theme, given continual advances in embryonic stem cell research that may eventually enable scientists to grow human organs in the bodies of other species, and vice-versa. Recalling a mythological beast described by the ancient Greeks as part-lion, part-goat and part-dragon, the subjects of such trans-species experimentation have been appropriately dubbed "chimeras."

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