Friday, March 5, 2010

Rogue Taxidermy

       In my Junior Ranger days I learned the basics of taxidermy by stuffing a roadkill chipmunk. I learned how to skin a dead animal, remove the insides, preserve the skin, stuff it, and set the legs in position. My chipmunk sat a bit awkwardly on his log and I didn't quite get his left eye in, but the basics were there. A few years a later, a grouse flew into a friend's picture window and died. My second and final attempt at taxidermy went much like my first, though the bird's thin skin was tricky and the plastic eyes looked in different directions.
       Even now I find taxidermy fascinating. It's certainly an odd interest for a vegan (one which my wife stalwartly refuses to share), but stuffing and mounting animals gives you a chance to study, understand, and preserve an animal. It's a close connection to the animal you're working on. I don't advocate killing animals for sport and I will never, never go hunting, but when I'm driving my truck and I see a dead coyote, I frequently wonder how long it's been dead and whether or not I could stuff it.
       If you share my interest in taxidermy, you'll want to check out M.A.R.T. M.A.R.T., the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, creates some wild stuff. M.A.R.T. has many more members than you would expect in a guild of artists working in the medium of dead animals, but the three primary members are Scott Bibus, Robert Marbury, and Sarina Brewer. Each of the three has a very distinct style. Bibus's creations are very well-done, but clearly the goriest of the three. Marbury's stray furthest from the physiology of known animals. The "Nardog" below is Marbury's. The antlered squirrel above is a tame example of Brewer's work; she also creates fantasy creatures like griffins, capricorns, and chimeras. You can also buy a jar of dried squirrel head from her website.
Creative as they may be, there's something a little disturbing about these creations. Perhaps that's part of the charm. Their raw materials come from salvaged roadkill, farm casualties, and animals that have died of natural causes. M.A.R.T. stresses that no animals die to produce the art. According to his bio, Robert Marbury is vegan. Brewer's motto on her website - "I call it art, you can call it whatever you want" - is a clever acknowledgment that rogue taxidermy pushes the boundaries of artistic mediums and what many people feel comfortable seeing as art. Whatever you call it, I hope rogue taxidermy will be the most interesting thing you'll see online today.

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