Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art

When looking at something like a taxidermied Janus kitten—that is, a tiny feline with two faces—one might assume that its maker had a rather dark view of animal life. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Being able to give something another life, elevating it into something beyond death—that gives me chills,” said Divya Anantharaman, one of New York’s best-known practitioners in the modern taxidermy movement and the maker of the taxidermied Janus kitten, which was a special commission for the person who cared for the animal during its short life. “[Taxidermy] is very emotional and humbling,” Anantharaman added. “The thing I think the most often is: Don’t mess it up.”

This reverence for the deceased is common among a contemporary breed of taxidermists. Far from the traditional profile of gruff men in rural areas mounting animals they hunted to display as trophies, today’s innovative taxidermists are younger and more diverse, and they tend to live in urban environments and skew heavily female. They often work with small creatures like birds and rodents rather than hulking deer or bears, and they’re pursuing their craft ethically—acquiring animals that have died naturally, and thus distancing the art of taxidermy from the pursuit of hunting. And while they’re often trained in traditional practices, many favor turning out artistic creations that depart from the way the animals looked while alive. They’re breathing new life into a centuries-old discipline, pursuing it with joy, respect, humor, and heart.

Read More – Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art – Artsy

For the women of the rogue taxidermy movement, there’s a curious allure to the taboo art

In Brooke Weston’s world of fantasy taxidermy, dead deer double as dollhouses.

Peaked roofs pop out of torsos. Staircases spiral up antlers like vines. The effect is both charming and a little creepy — macabre and magical.

Imagine “if Disneyland and a natural history museum got together,” Weston said with a laugh. “That’s my thing.”

The Los Angeles artist belongs to the rogue taxidermy movement, an art scene that’s been gaining ground in Southern California for about a decade. Practitioners range from L.A.-based Catherine Coan, whose theatrical tableaux offer an archly humorous take on the clash between humans and the natural world, to Ave Rose, whose bejeweled automata and stunning still sculptures recall Victorian curio cases.

According to Rose, artists are drawn to the tangible nature of taxidermy — a quality sometimes missing in modern life. “Everything’s digital now. Everything is kind of fleeting,” said Rose, who was also a contestant on Game Show Network’s “Steampunk’d” show. “People are looking for a tactile experience they can hold on to.”

“We want to work with our hands again. We want something that someone touched,” added Allis Markham, who creates meticulously realistic mounts for museums and nature centers, as well as A&E’s “Bates Motel” and Gucci’s “Guilty” ad campaign, as the owner of Prey Taxidermy in Los Angeles. “This art has that connection to the natural world.”

Coan, whose father is a hunter and fly fisherman, grew up in Montana in a house filled with taxidermy. She began incorporating taxidermied animals in her art in her series “Canary Suicides,” featuring whimsical tableaux of dead birds in captivity that serve as “little narratives, almost poems, about death and delight,” she wrote in an email. “I think the renewed interest in taxidermy today has to do with our understanding of and impact on the natural world,” wrote Coan, who calls her work “hybrid taxidermy.”

Read More – For the women of the rogue taxidermy movement, there’s a curious allure to the taboo art – Los Angeles Times

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