From Toast of Art World to Guest of Federal Pen

The odd case of artist Enrique Gomez de Molina, whose Frankenstinian animal mashups (alas, some involving creatures on the endangered list) got him busted.

A week before he was scheduled to check into federal prison in Pensacola to serve a 20-month sentence for smuggling endangered and protected wildlife, Miami artist Enrique Gomez de Molina was still trying to make sense of his plight.

As a painter and sculptor who worked primarily in bronze, he was barely getting noticed. But when he switched to working with dead animals, both the run-of-the-mill and the exotic, stitching the head of one onto the torso of another, adding perhaps the wings of a third and the hooves of a fourth, his star started climbing.

His hauntingly beautiful hybrid creatures, which look like they could have wandered out of a fairy tale — or a nightmare, depending on whom you ask — were garnering serious attention from the art world and fetching $12,000, $25,000, in one case $80,000. They sold to big-name collectors and to one museum in Kansas.

One of the last works he completed before being sentenced, titled Don’t Hog the Spotlight, tells his story: A lumbering upright mythical mammal, covered in moose and wild boar skin and trimmed in emu feathers, with the feet of a hippo and a longish snout fashioned to look like a South American tapir’s, is led by a much smaller being that is half goose, half monkey. The captive beast, eyes cast down, rope around his neck, does not resist the little guy he could easily take out with one swipe of his Frankenstein hoof.

“This is what it feels to be me right now,’’ De Molina said as he explained the piece, which resides in the Coconut Grove home of his art dealer, Bernice Steinbaum. “I’m feeling chained and dragged to be gawked at. To be shown as a spectacle, as an example.’’

For the rest of the article by Lilian Martin, please visit The Miami Herald.