Taxidermy stops time. Creatures are born, they live they die, they decay into dust. But taxidermy catches the wolf or the woodpecker in the middle of the cycle and keeps it there. That's why there's something unsettling and a little creepy about taxidermy. Never forget, the most memorable taxidermist in cinema history was Norman Bates.
But taxidermy arises from a welter of motives: Natural history, sentimentality, playfulness, horror... We may mount and preserve anything from an extinct species including Martha, the last passenger pigeon, to a beloved pet, to a freakish curiosity like a two-headed calf or an albino zebra. In the world of art, vast liberties are taken - fraudulent hybrid creatures are invented like the jackrabbit with antelope horns, and creatures are twisted into anthropomorphic poses, like the preserved fox in a dress, sitting on a swing.
What exactly is taxidermy, and the difference between "traditional" and "rogue" taxidermy? Who needs stuffed and mounted animals anymore? What are the laws regulating which animals can be worked with and which can't? What does taxidermy say about our relationships to animals, to nature?
We'll fill you in (pun intended) on this show with authors, artists, and experts.
Questions? Comments? Write below, email Colin@wnpr.org, or tweet @wnprcolin.
- Rachel Poliquin is author of The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing, and you can see more of her work at RavishingBeasts.com
- Robert Marbury is co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, and author of the upcoming book, Taxidermy Art: A Rogue's Guide to the Work, the Culture and How to do it Yourself
- James Prosek is a Connecticut-based artist with an exhibit, “Wondrous Strange” currently on view at the New Britain Museum of American Art
- Glen Barber runs Outdoor Artistry Taxidermy and Bait in Winsted, Connecticut