Atalanta Xanthe

Region: Northeast

City / State: Brooklyn, NY

 These paintings imagine the journey of anthropomorphized sperm as they struggle through the reproductive tract.

A few years ago, I discovered I have a half-brother, born from sperm my father donated decades before. This new half-sibling was exactly my age—and lived three miles away from me. I started wondering about all the versions of ourselves that didn’t make it; he and I were from the luckiest gametes, but what about the runners-up? The average ejaculate contains 200 million others.

From the Willendorf Venus onwards, art often depicts fertility as passive, generous, and bountiful. It’s not. The inside story of procreation includes seismic uterine contractions, battering microvilli, and searing vaginal acid. I wanted to tell a story of reproduction that foregrounded the randomness, harshness, and drama of the race.

Fusing influences from Hiroshige, Bruegel, and biological diagrams, and by appropriating the grand scale of History Paintings, this series is a homage to all the versions of ourselves that could have existed.

Not all my work is about sperm.