Dead Animal Art Is Apparently Becoming a Thing

Among the works on display in the new “Dead Animals, or the Curious Occurrence of Taxidermy in Contemporary Art” exhibit at Brown University are “Away from the Flock,” a dead lamb suspended in formaldehyde; “Spurts,” a decapitated deer with bubblegum-pink fake blood flowing from its neck; and “Inert Wolf,” a pelt that includes the dead animal’s stuffed head and front legs.

These are the “mounted, hybridized, sequin-encrusted and beheaded remains of our furry friends,” reports the Brown Daily Herald.

Gallery director Jo-Ann Conklin, curator of the exhibit, said taxidermy is becoming trendy. It’s “showing up in art galleries … fashion advertising — there’s a resurgence of interest in it,” she told the Herald.

“Taxidermy is a really loaded medium” with an “emotional, visceral effect,” she said.

The exhibit provides an opportunity to explore why artists use taxidermy and the implications of doing so, according to a news release.

“For some artists, the answer may simply begin with logistics — the fact that dead animals rot and live animals move can reduce their usefulness to artists in some instances,” it states. “But artists also may be interested in verisimilitude, the link with the real that is afforded by taxidermy. They may be intrigued by the dual nature of taxidermy: Taxidermy’s veracity coexists with an unnatural stillness that signals the artificiality of the animal specimen and its death.”

But are any of the artists interested in the question of whether taxidermy as art is ethical?

Or how about another troubling question: How did they obtain the dead animals they used?

Artist Kimberly Witham, whose work is not in the Brown University exhibition, creates what she calls “ethical art” from roadkill she finds. After her portrait or sculpture is completed, she takes photographs of it and then buries the animal’s remains instead of putting them on display.

Like Witham, many current taxidermy artists “want to make sure that the animals they work with didn’t die for the sake of art,” National Geographic reports.

Witham said that by removing dead animals from the road, she is trying to give them respect. “So I might immortalize them in a photograph or perhaps their skin in taxidermy, but then I bury them in the woods,” she told National Geographic. “And I like to think that that’s a better end for them.”

Other “ethical” taxidermy artists buy dead mice, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals from a company that supplies them as food to zoos and pet stores.

Is this really ethical? Allis Markham, a taxidermist and assistant at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles doesn’t think so. “Using animals killed for pet food is the same to me as factory farming,” she told the New York Times. Markham said she gets her carcasses from pest control companies or from game breeders after the animals have died naturally. (But aren’t game breeders in the same boat as factory farmers?)

“Back in Victorian times, people, especially women, used to do a lot of taxidermy, putting it under glass domes or in quilts,” Brian Schmidt, a taxidermist at the Smithsonian Institution, told the New York Times. “So I guess we’ve come full circle.”

That’s unfortunate. This gross trend is one that really needed to stay in the Victorian era.

Photo credit: Brown University

172 comments

william M
william Millerabout a year ago

thanks

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Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton1 years ago

So horrible. To call these people artists. Shame on them.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

These are among the psychotic bastards who are destroying our planet. There should be a law against this criminal "art" and the perpetrators should receive the death sentence.

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Mary S.
Mary S2 years ago

This is awful. I will never understand the cruelty of some humans.

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Dianne D.
Dianne D2 years ago

Discussing and disrespectful.

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Anne Fantasia
Anne Fantasia2 years ago

Serial killers in the making....

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Czerny A.
Czerny A2 years ago

Never forget the name Tom Otterness, so-called performance artist, who adopted a stray, then shot him and filmed the dog dying a slow death and called it Art.

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M s
M s2 years ago

just when i thought humans couldn't become any more EVIL!! you know that people will INTENTIONALLY KILL ANIMALS and take pictures What PEA BRAINED HUMAN thought of this? We continue to ENCOURAGE VIOLENCE TOWARDS ANIMALS that transfers to human communities SHAME on BROWN UNIVERSITY I would be EMBARRASSED to attend that university

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chris b.
chris B2 years ago

Sorry - that just doesn't sound or look right.

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