Thousands of varieties of tomatoes, wheat, and ants still cohabit the earth, whereas we modern humans are the solitary heirs of a lost family. Life adores diversity and profusion, but through the mysteries of evolution we find ourselves the sole representatives of the genus Homo. Is this a reason to forget or to scorn our common roots and the tree on which we form a single branch? 

Elisabeth Daynès' exhibition asks us to look straight into our ancestors' eyes and rediscover the aspects that a larger, wider, and richer humanity once possessed and could have still possessed. Where science stops, the art of the paleo-artist begins: “I sculpt hypotheses.” Through her, on the basis of the latest scientific advances, the flesh is suddenly back on the skulls and our most ancient past stares us in the face. These are no longer dusty relics relegated to a museum shelf. 

They appear in the magic of a hologram, in a family circle where all appear in their skinless truth, building the foundations for that concentration of thought, light, and desire that we call a face. The visitor discovers each of the eight actors in our evolution successively in the form of a skull, a skinless head (a giant illuminated three-dimensional hologram), and an artistically reconstituted face. “The most important aspect of my sculptures, is the look in the eyes,” insists Elisabeth Daynès. Two figures of Homo sapiens — anatomically modern men — entirely recreated in their attire, contemplate this plunge into the flesh of our origins with us. The exhibition’s international opening takes place in the grandiose setting of the Pôle international de la Préhistoire, a free public cultural space devoted to the valorisation of prehistory. 

Born in Béziers (France) in 1960, Elisabeth Daynès was fascinated by the fine arts and theatre at an early age. After working with the German stage director Matthias Langhoff, she opened her first sculptor’s studio when she was only 24. Her passionate interest in prehistoric humans grew during the 1990s, when she applied the latest scientific knowledge to reconstituting fossilized men for the Tautavel Museum, and recreating the Australopithecus Lucy in 1999. In 2006, her reconstruction of Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s face earned her international recognition and put her on the cover of every edition of National Geographic. In 2010, she received the John J. Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize. In 2011, the Prehistory Museum of Ile-de-France devoted a solo exhibition to her work, while a number of her sculptures of hominids were inaugurated in South Korea.

AuthorBeth Green