Crawling Lady Hare is one of Sophie Ryder’s earliest works to feature the hybrid woman and animal figure that has become a hallmark of her artistic career. She created the commission on-site during a five-week residency in the summer of 1997. Along with her family, who traveled with her from England, Cheekwood staff, trustees, and members of the community helped Ryder complete the massive sculpture, constructed by building up bundles of tangled, wound wire over its steel frame. Due to concerns over visitors wanting to touch or climb on the work and damage its malleable form, Crawling Lady Hare was sited farther back from the main path than other works on The Carell Trail. As Ryder states, the sculpture “sits well in its surroundings, and knowing that the trees will grow and change in the different seasons adds to the excitement for me.”
All of Sophie Ryder’s work is figural, often taking the form of animals including hares, horses, bulls, and dogs, and reflects aspects of her pastoral life in a remote part of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England, where she moved to in 1986. She is not simply interested in creating naturalistic representations or replicas, but rather characters and beings that move beyond animal form. Her Lady Hares and their male counterparts, expressed in the figure of the bull-man Minotaur, convey their identities through mask-like features and associated symbolic or behavioral qualities. For example, Ryder specifically chose a single hare, rather than the domesticated rabbit, to express a poetic sense of solitary freedom.