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V Magazine

Lords of the Dance

By Christopher Bartley

September 21, 2007

Artist Jenny Ping turns reptiles into dancing queens in her intricate drawings

New York artist Jenny Ping refers to the reptiles in her show at Klaus von Nichtssagend as “dansaurs.” That’s because in her beautiful, intricate drawings the big lizards are often depicted dancing or in mid-air, dressed in tutus or elaborate Ottoman-inspired clothing. Ping finds her inspiration in classical dance and the ballets of Marius Petipa and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Her resulting studies examine the performative aspect of dance and add a fantastical element in the process, with her scaly humanoids taking center stage. Ping is interested in creatures that are simultaneously human and animal. Here, they elevate her spectacularly-detailed work squarely into the realm of the surreal.

In “On the Stage,” Ping presents fifteen single portraits of her creatures and characters. Some are pictured dancing or singing, often decked out in harlequin jumpsuits or elaborate Russian/Chinese/Central Asian dress. “Four Braided Dansaurs” shows her lizards in the grips of an ecstatic dance, mouths open and heads tossed back. The piece took the artist a full year to complete and it’s evident in the kaleidoscope of colors and mindblowing attention to detail. It’s the standout of the show, partly for the magnificent spectacle it depicts and partly for the joyous mood that Ping has imparted on these beautiful dansaurs.