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Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by puzzledprofessor, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. Hello All,
    Its been a few years since I have posted anything, but I find myself needing some advice. I have been invited to do a taxidermy demonstration in, of all places, an art museum in a good sized city. This demo is being presented in conjunction with a program on the topic of death in art. I see this as an opportunity to help others understand why we do what we do and to develop some appreciation for the art, but I know this crowd and while they are intelligent and articulate they are also opinionated. If any of you have the time during this busy season and are willing, I would like for you to share your ideas and philosophy on the need for and function of taxidermy in our post modern world.
    Thanks, in advance.
  2. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    I've got a minute so I'll start by giving my opinion. First off "Need" is a powerful word and I'm not sure it fits in this context. Taxidermy is not a "Need", our specie does not need taxidermy to survive but it does fill a niche in human nature. That niche is that humans have long had a propensity to collect trophies, or memories of life experiences, if you will. Taxidermy also tells a story, another thing humans have been doing for a long time. The story often is a obscured but it still exists, for example, a well composed mount and diorama do tell a story that is often easy for the viewer to follow and understand, other mounts such as a shoulder mount, the majority of the story is often not so obvious but, still exists. I'm sure there is more to be discussed, but I have to get to work.

  3. Thank you for you reply, Sir.
    Cecil likes this.
  4. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

    If I knew they were opinionated as you say I wouldn’t do it, you’re walking into a snake den. You will never change their minds no matter how well you articulate it. I agree with 3bears there is no need for taxidermy in the post modern world. It’s a luxury afforded by sportsman who want to preserve a memory.
    3bears likes this.
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Preserving memories would be accurate. Whether a trophy or even someones pet they can't bear to bury and have it mounted to forever nap in it's favorite spot in a home. But, if you are going to be putting on a presentation in front of opinionated artists .. expect to be grilled on how it is an abomination, the right to life (PETA) ideals and the Cecil the lion fanatics. Taxidermy could well be called an art, there was a long thread on here some time ago about that if I remember correctly. It is taking a part of something dead and giving it the fullness and appearance of life. Whether the finished mount could be called art .. not sure about that. If it is a realistic animal, most likely not. But then you have the below fox (Joules from an old thread on here). Positively dead and definitely art though not what I would call taxidermy.


  6. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    Hopefully you will have a captive audience. My son's have some very millennial friends that come into my shop. Most of them are in awe. For the most part they are envious of the artistry, and the volume of business we do. Most of their weird stuff (life the item shown by Sea Wolf) doesn't sell. They don't have the patience or the skill to pull off a realistic mount...and many of them would really like to, they just want it to magically happen.
  7. Thank you all for your comments.
    I think it could get contentious, but my goal is to maintain my cool.
    Very cool fox, by the way.
    Cecil likes this.
  8. msestak

    msestak Well-Known Member

    what if you stay away from the "hunting and fishing" part of taxidermy and present it as Museum taxidermy and the history of it ?

    even the audubon society and others had no complaint about that. its the so called sport aspect that these opinionated folks are going to concentrate on.
    Cecil and 3bears like this.
  9. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Good point. It is amazing to me what some people think about our craft. Yes, most of us work on hunter or fisher acquired critters but that is what is readily available and pays the bills, though it may not be the only motivation pushing some of us.
    Cecil and msestak like this.
  10. msestak

    msestak Well-Known Member

    what was used to hold the eye in place in that last photo ? is it naturally white or was it painted ?
  11. jjennings.m

    jjennings.m Member

    This is an interesting 45 minute video (February, 2016) as part of the:

    Taxidermy, Art, and the Animal Question: A Symposium | Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art

    “Rachel Poliquin will explore the cultural history of taxidermy from its earliest beginnings in sixteenth-century wonder cabinets to taxidermy’s unsettling reinvention in twenty-first century art.”

    There are half a dozen presentations in all. I found that I don’t have the time or patience to watch them though.


    Hope it helps.
    JL, Cecil and msestak like this.
  12. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    How about museums?
  13. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    To me looks like a piece of white plastic was glued in place around the eye.
  14. OhDear

    OhDear New Member

    Hellos~ What a wonderful opportunity! I am an artist and educator, and I know that my students are fascinated by taxidermy. In conjunction with the theme of death in art, it can be a very powerful opportunity to explain what we do, why we do it, and who it benefits. Personally, I can see taxidermy as fulfilling basic human needs: holding on to memories, understanding our world, and the instinct to preserve the dead.
    Of all animals, humans are the only ones that have a history of preservation of the dead. Going all the way back to prehistoric burials, and the death-cults of Göbekli Tepe (oldest evidence of civilization), humans have curiosity surrounding the transition of life to death. The preservation of the body and bones- no only of humans but animals- is a way to honor and 'keep track of' the dead. This human behavior encompasses everything from modern embalming and funerals, to the Victorian obsession with photographing the deceased, to the carefully preserved relics of the Saints....and on and on through time.
    Taxidermy as a way of understanding our world is an important cornerstone of science, exploration, and natural history. Pre-technology, it was how the world was able to experience life forms from other places. A window into the diversity, a cataloging of the variations and relationships of nature. Taxidermy helped to build understanding of physiology, anatomy, and the processes of aging. The taxidermist is the preserver of individual details, the mounts that grouped together tell the story of a species. Now we can thank the early taxidermists for the provision of DNA from extinct species- a means to study them and understand what happened to cause their decline.
    Memory is critical- personal, cultural, scientific, natural. The preservation of mounts is a way to encapsulate the memory of the hunt, and a means to honor the life of the animal. The preservation of the animal spans beyond the personal meaning to become the memory of technology- the process involved, the aesthetics of the form, the different treatments of recreation. The "why" of taxidermy becomes cultural memory, and a way of understanding others. Was the mount created as a documentation of a successful hunt? Why did they hunt- sport, food, ritual? Did the animal preserved become a symbol of social transformation (first deer as a passage to adulthood, the wearing of pelts/claws/ teeth as class indicators, the exotic game heads as a sign of wealth) ? Was it part of a religious or spiritual practice? Or was it for profit- a souvenir, curiosity, novelty, a bit of furniture to match the parlor? We can learn so much~
    Today's resurgence of taxidermy, especially the rouge taxidermy, I believe reflects back to the human attempt to understand death through preservation. In modern American culture, although we are exposed to violent images daily, the reality of death is often tucked away. The majority of people have never had to butcher or hunt, provide funerary care for a loved one, or had to deal with any type of dead being other than a pet or squashed bug. As a culture, we are divorced from the process- yet fascinated by it. The rouge taxidermy provides a playful approach to death- making a dead thing something else- anthropomorphic, cute, horrifying, a curiosity. Likewise traditional taxidermy has become a 'hot' decorating trend, and part of the ironic hipster style. This can be seen in not only the sale of existing mounts, but in the popularity of fake papermache' or plastic deer heads/ animal heads sold at the big-box art stores ready to be pintrested into home decor. The art of the hunt transformed into something safe and approachable for the masses.

    Ok- I've gone on forever, but anyway- it was fun to write. Would love to see your talk if they record it! Best wishes!
    jjennings.m, msestak and Skywalker like this.