A cheeky little boy sharing a nest of human hair with a cluster of giant grubs will greet visitors to the Art Gallery of WA over the next few months.
Suspended in his "egg sac" above the main concourse, the silicon child will welcome people to the weird and wonderful world of Relativity, the new exhibition of fanciful mutants created by internationally renowned Melbourne artist Patricia Piccinini.
By crossing snails with scooters and blending humans with apes, dugongs and other beasts, Piccinini said she was raising questions about science, nature and the links between humans and animals through genetic engineering.
"I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to make something new and spectacular," she said of the 250kg of human hair she gathered over five months from Melbourne salons for her site-specific installation Aloft.
"They swept up all the hair and put in bins for me," she said. "We sorted through all that hair because a lot of it was too short or dirty. We needed it to be 7cm long.
"It shimmers and catches the light," she said. "This hair that I have picked through is gorgeous and beautiful. I don't know why we throw it away. We should be using it more."
Piccinini said Aloft was about nature turning the tables in the middle of the human-built concrete, steel and glass environment of the art gallery.
"It is as very fecund image," she said. "It is pregnant with life."
Relativity opens tomorrow and Piccinini will be in the gallery at 2pm to talk about her work.