Art or Craft

Submitted by Gary Pegg Australia on 5/12/01. ( )

l suppose many people within our own industry will always debate the classification of taxidermy,--is it art or craft?

But if you wish some real food for thought,read on.

Many years ago when l first applied for a sale tax exemption number in Australia to seek sale tax exemption in the materials l purchased, my accountant at the time filed the appropriate application for exemption in the "aid to manufacture."
The Tax department came back and said "sorry -you cannot claim for an exemption # ,-- because you are not a manufacturer"

When asked to be more specific as to why l did not fundamentally qualify as a "manufacturer' -the department responded thus-

"You start with a fish , and you end up with a fish.
You start with a bird, and end up with a bird.
You endeavour is to preserve things back to exactly the way they exist in real life."
"You do not take a piece of timber and change it into a chair or table.
"That is manufacture. "

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Well, Gary, I think it is both in one...

This response submitted by Bill Gaither on 5/12/01. ( )

Well, Gary, at least you got a human response from your government which is much more than we can hope for today. I have been an artist in some sense of the word for my entire adult life, and I am not really much further along in the development of understanding than are you. Art is many things to many people. As I currently understand the definition of "Art", it is the manifestation of a concept by use of some form of expression which can be seen and understood by others. The old argument by the ancient greeks about who was the artisan and who was the craftsman believed that the conceiver or designer was not the artist, but rather the craftsman who constructed the design into physical reality. Then along came Jones, or whomever and the designer became the artisan and the builder the craftsperson.

When an individual mounts a bird or mammal or fish, or mother-in-law, they are exhibiting craftsmanship by use of many materials and procedures to arrive at a finished mount. When one conceives an arrangement of the mounted form that implies grace, motion or due arrangement of forms and inclusions so as to instill a sense of emotion in the viewer, than the mounting becomes art, at least by the definition of some. Art, to be construed as art, requires thought, concept and individual arrival at a conclusion with only raw material input to guide the force of creation. Craft uses patterns and standardizations to arrive heterogenously at like end results. Mind you, these are not my definitions, but those which I understand to be current concepts of what is or isn't art.

The "whim of the moment" abstractionist often creates what is termed art and then later forgets why it was done, or even how it was done, on occassion. The sense that one needs turn a raw material, such as wood, into a functional product in order for it to be sufficiently changed to meet the definition of manufacture, doesn't know much about other manufacturing processes. A filet from a fish is still "fish", albeit in a different form than the original, but by your government's definition, the manufacture of foodstuffs would preclude it from tax exemption since the fish didn't change basic substance.

A mounted bird is a product, just as a wooden chair or an automobile engine is a product. The initial component, a living creature, is a far cry from the finished mount. Many skills and much lore goes into even the simplest taxidermy task. In my opinion, taxidermy, the discipline, is a craft, and its purveyors are craftsmen. It is the more subtle arrangements and creative genius of the work's authors that create the "art" that is evident in many taxidermy works. Criteria such as feeling and form and spatial arrangement have no material barriers. No matter what was used to generate a work of art, be it mounted fowl, fish or a cast bronze statue, it is the ability of the finished art to provide a cohesive bond between the maker and the viewer that predicates the classification.

Hell yes it is art, and as valid as any fling of paint made by Pollack or two faced woman conceived by Picasso. I see no difference between the works of Barre or Rodin and those of good contemporary taxidermists. When I see a mount that takes my mind back to an event in my life that the work recalls, the taxidermist who created that work has accomplished as much as Leonardo did with his thin lipped, smiling woman.


This response submitted by . on 5/12/01. ( )

I like shiny things.

Does anyone recall?

This response submitted by Rob Patton on 5/12/01. ( )

Does anyone recall, from about 10 or 15 years ago, the money that our government granted to the so called arts. I bet they are still doing it today. But anyway, among other things, money was granted to some wacko who photographed a crucifix in a glass of urine. Our government along with other stupid liberials thought themselves as open minded in calling this art. Why doesn't government pay us for what we create?


This response submitted by George on 5/12/01. ( )

It's called the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and if you ever want to risk the ire of the liberals, challenge that waste of money doled out by congress to these misfit obominations who call themselves "artists". But to answer your question, what most of us do isn't art in the sense we take nothing and create something. We take a creature that God created perfectly and preserve it to a life-LIKE appearance for others to enjoy. The real artists in this industry are the sculptors, molders, and eye makers. Even a dumb country boy like me can do a fair job at re-creating thanks to them.


This response submitted by Wava on 5/12/01. ( ) remind me of Norman Rockwell. He never thought of himself as an artist either, just an illustrator. In my opinion he caught more life in one of his "illustrations" than Pollack ever captured in his famous splatter paintings or one of the minimalists, with their blank canvasses or red dots or whatever. All through college, I remember the snobbish attitude of a lot of "fine" artists toward anyone hoping to earn a steady paycheck from their talent in the commercial field...unbelievably it took me years to realize the canvas looked the same and meant the same thing to me whether I painted it for me or to sell something in an advertisement. After I stopped making that distinction, it became real easy. Some things in this life are better not examined too closely.

Maplethorpe I believe...

This response submitted by marty on 5/12/01. ( )

was the "Artist" that did all the controversial tinkling-type stuff. Damn, wish I would've thought of it first!

The perception of whether or not something is art is in the eye of the beholder. Keep in mind that centuries ago the working drawings artists used to develop their paintings (art) were not considered art back then. They were just part of the process to get to the final piece.

Because of the many reasons stated above, mainly because you're starting out with "something", I would not consider taxidermy an art. It takes artistic ability if you want to distinguish yourself from the rest but as far as a pure art form, taxidermy is not.

Woodcarving on the otherhand I would consider an art form. Yes, you're starting out with a block of wood but one is pretty much creating from scratch their interpretation of something. Whereas with taxidermy we are just trying to recreate something as best we can like the original. But again, beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder. And, everytime I log on and see that Rudd it sort've throws everything that is black and white in my mind, right into that gray area again!

Lemme tell you about the NEA

This response submitted by Bill Gaither on 5/12/01. ( )

During the Ronnie years, funds for freeloaders began to dry up and a lot of "artist" found themselves looking for work. A lady applied for a job at my studio at that time. She was 32 years old, held a Phd in fine art and a Master's in Art History. Whe had a portfolio full of designs, some of which were very nice. At the time, we designed a lot of kitchen and houseware items for JC Penny and Sears. I asked where she had worked in the past. What I got for an answer nearly floored me. She had run a childre n's inner city art program where kids painted kiddie things on retaining and flood walls: She had had an NEA grant to study middle eastern design and form and function theory: Another grant to study ortho-graphic variances in pioneer arts and crafts and other I have forgotten after too many bourbon evenings. Her portfolio consisted of "semester" [projects which had each taken weeks of time to complete on still other grants and AIK loans and honorariums. I told her she would have two or three days per project to come up with like designs or I couldn't use her. She said that I would be an unbearable ogre to expect that much out of an artist such as herself. I walked her through the design center and shops and showed her 130 workers who didn't see me that way. Later I polled my employees to see which had had received grants or assistance or had worked under an NEA funded! They were too busy earning a living to screw with the paperwork.

Maplethorpe was a gay photographer

This response submitted by Bill Gaither on 5/12/01. ( )

Marty, I believe he was more adept at twittering and twinkling than at tinkling. His was the exhibit that caused so much stink about the NEA funding tasteless art and exhibits.

Just think where taxidermists would be today if Peggy Guggenheim would have slept with one of our kind instead of the post impressionists and cubists. Can you imagine, Picasso and Chagall and Monet and Cezzane being replaced by the Jonas brothers?

Surely it can be taken to that level...

This response submitted by Al on 5/12/01. ( )

But I feel "most" taxidermy done today would best be described as a skilled trade. Some forms of taxidermy do require some artistic ability, but still in my eyes its not art.

The Urine Guys name is...

This response submitted by The artist formally known as.... on 5/12/01. ( )

His name is Andres Serano. He did the pics of crucifixes in urine, blood and semen mixed with water. He also did a series of portraits of Ku Klux Klansmen and homeless black men. Maplethorpe was the guy who did photos of nekid gay men with a whip stuck where the sun dont shine (or shouldnt anyway), as well as simualr naughty things. Just wanted to clear that little mistake back to stuffin critters...

I think it is art

This response submitted by Dave Toms on 5/12/01. ( )

I use the rules of design, composition, balance, color scheme, etc... so yes I consider it art. There is, or should be, a lot more then just putting something back together. Anyone who attended the world show surly came away with awe at the art that was displayed there! Just my opinion

Dave Toms


This response submitted by John M on 5/13/01. ( )

You hit it on the head Dave!

I guess

This response submitted by CHUCK on 5/13/01. ( )

In short-
If it makes you money and you do it well ,it is a craft.
If it stirs either yours or your customer's emotions at sight of the finished product-its art.

as I see it...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 5/14/01. ( )

I dont need to urinate on MY work to referr to it as art. You can all label your work as you see fit, Im calling it art. Its interpretive and variable, using the animal as its medium.

Regarding the NEA,

This response submitted by concerned artist on 5/25/01. ( )

isn't another issue the potential for censorship? That gossamer "lifeline" of grant money that enables so many artists seems so feather-light and benign, but could so easily mutate into chains heavier and more restrictive than Jacob Marley's, for all artists...

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