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Smiles feature prominently in plenty of artwork, but sometimes artists go beyond the grin and make teeth the focus of their work in novel ways.
Dental professionals showcase true artistic skill with the restorations they create whether in the patient's mouth or extraorally chairside or at a dental laboratory. Patients might not always appreciate the level of detail required to make restorations look natural and seamless in a smile. But dentists aren't the only artists inspired by both the form and the function of teeth.
Here are 8 times artists created works prominently featuring teeth.
British artist Gina Czarnecki creates works across a range of media including sculpture, drawing, video, and installations. Featured here is her work "Palaces" which was created between 2011 and 2016. The sculpture is made from crystal resin and stands 3 meters high and 2 meters wide. At first glance, the connection to teeth might not be apparent, but embedded in the resin are hundreds of milk teeth donated by children across the UK. These teeth were collected over a 5 year period, and the work was created as a collaboration with Professor Sara Rankin, a stem cell researcher at the Imperial College London.
According to a statement on Czarnecki's website, the work is, "fundamentally about belief. It’s an interweaving of science and magic, possibilities and potentials, fact and fictions, and the rituals we enact. Milk teeth and their symbolic association with growth and progress, loss of innocence and entering maturity.
They also a symbol of the body's ability to regenerate in this context - stem cells can be extracted from milk teeth. The translucent quality of Palaces is familiar to scientists who create scaffolds for tissue engineering by de-cellularising organs."
Watch a video from the artist about the work to see close ups of the teeth right here:
American-born, UK-based artists Nancy Fouts made a name for herself creating whimsical and surreal sculptures and objects. Her work often combines two or more familiar objects to create something new, and absurd like her Electric Rocking Chair.
Her work includes several pieces where teeth play a prominent role, and pictured here is her 2010 creation, "Purse With Teeth" which as the name implies combines a change purse with two full arches of prosthetic teeth. The work was featured on the cover of a 2013 issue of the British Dental Journal.
A selection of some of her other surreal works, including a toothy toothbrush can be found here.
Japanese Artist Hirotoshi Ito is known for his work with rocks and stones. Some of his work involves changing the shape of the rocks he finds to resemble other objects, but it's his works created from stones from the rivers and beaches near his home in Matsumoto, Japan.
Pictured above are some of his "Laughing Stones" which is a series featuring stones with inset rows of teeth to create a surreal sort of face. Ito has also created a "Licking Stone" and a stone with vampire fangs among its teeth. He creates many other unusual pieces from the stones he encounters and many of them can be found here and on his Instagram page here.
Here's a video with Ito explaining his work and his creative process:
American artist Seward Johnson created a wide range of works over his lengthy career but he's best known as a sculptor of life-size and larger recreations of everything from common people to iconic images and other works of art. His sculptures are on display in cities and museums around the world.
While teeth have rarely been the focus of his work, "The Tooth" is a massive molar statue he created as a part of his Monumental Scale series. Made from cast alluminum, the statue stands 20 feet tall. It was exhibited in Crown Point, Indiana in 2017 and 2018. For more about Johnson and much more about his many works visit his website.
Additionally, here's a short video about the installation of "The Tooth"
Teeth were a central component of the 2015 "Apex Predator" series of works from European art duo Fantich & Young. Mariana Fantich and Dominic Young began creating art together in 2015. Based in London the duo is known for creating intriguing objects that comment on the relationship between humanity and nature, among other areas of inspiration.
The "Apex Predator" project is a series of clothing and objects adorned and styled with teeth, human hair, bones, and military ribbons. The artists posit that the works are "specifically tailored for the discerning client with the taste for power and exclusivity." The works included several styles of shoes, a tooth-covered basketball, and much more. They also produced a dental-focused work with their 2018 "Tomb of the Unknown Civilian" project. Check out more works from Fantich & Young at their website.
Often referred to as "Tooth Child" the image above is the tooth covered monster created for the first season of SyFy horror anthology series "Channel Zero". A small monster covered head to toe in teeth, this creation is among the more disturbing artistic uses of teeth. The actual suit worn by the actress playing the Tooth Child was designed by Greg Nicotero, who is likely best known for his work on The Walking Dead.
Horror movie costumes might not often be considered high art, but this creation is as visually unforgettable as it is creepy, and definitely one of the most intense uses of teeth. It certainly takes the Apex Predator concept to its furthest conclusion. Watch a video of the suit in action below, if you dare…
There are two sides to the work of California-based artist Jennifer Sutherland. Under her own name, she creates sculptures and painted dolls, but her Sutherland's Underland projects are full of teeth (and the rest of mouths) inserted into eggs and other unusual housings.
Her Yolk Mouth creations are handmade and often start with real eggs that she alters and paints while adding teeth, gingiva, tongues, and a lot of other details. Sutherland often begins these projects with eggs, but she has also worked with shells and other objects that could house a mouth and take on a personality. Available in various sizes, (depending on whether they start from a large emu or ostrich egg, or a much smaller chicken egg) the works are whimsical and just odd enough to catch someone's attention and start a conversation. You can check out her work on her website.
Check out this video about her art here:
Working under the moniker Mr. Basic, this artist sells tooth and other anatomically influenced functional art via the Concave Oblivion Etsy store. Not much is known about him beyond one 2015 interview that included the detail that his grandfather was a dental technician, but the work certainly speaks for itself.
Sure a denture bracelet or ring isn't going to be for everyone, but for the right person, it's the perfect accessory. Check out Mr. Basic's work at the Concave Oblivion Etsy store.