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Friday
Sep042009

The New Taxidermy

A few words on the new interest in vintage taxidermy.  Open any home decor magazine and you're sure to see taxidermy - perhaps a trophy head, perhaps even a Victorian case of sea birds. At the very least, you'll probably see a modern reworking of the trophy head fabricated from some plastic material or carved from wood. 

Wendi Weger's Pioneer Home

Surely this trend in taxidermy isn't new to you readers, but just in case here's a few comments from Apartment Therapy readers on the yays or nays of taxidermy here + http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/news/vintage-taxidermy-yay-or-nay-055802#comments.  And while you're at Apartment Therapy, check out Michelle Enemark and Dylan Thuras' Brooklyn flat here + http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/house-tours/-090422

So what is this all about?  Why the new interest for taxidermy among the young and trendy ultramoderns? Perhaps because taxidermy is the ultimate anti-modern object.  

Where serially produced, industrially manufactored objects have clean lines and smooth surfaces, trophies are intensely detailed and sensuously textural.  If manufactured goods are endowed with a replaceable sameness, each piece of taxidermy - just like each and every animal, human or otherwise - is inherently, potently, uniquely itself. If modern objects self-consciously sidestep the moral weight of tradition and centuries old antiquities, vintage taxidermy resonantes with a deep history of times passed. But as always with taxidermy, the meaning of these pieces is ambiguous.  

Old taxidermy is laden with a perplexed significance.  If hunting trophies are typically displayed by the hunters who killed the beasts, these re-appointed pieces are usually of obscured origins.  Where it came from, who killed it, how long it has been dead - all such storytelling is no longer significant. Rummaged from junk stores or purchased on e-bay, vintage taxidermy refocuses the attention from the hunter's prowess to the animal itself, to its strangeness, to its beauty. If vintage trophies make reference to a passed era when taxidermy was a regular household decoration item, they similarly speak to the enduring power of animal beauty. And these trophies although long dead and often older than their collectors are still intensely beautiful.  No other household decoration holds the enigmatic fascination of an animal.

Reader Comments (1)

You should check out the artist Kimberley Hart. She has a show up at Mixed Greens Gallery in NYC that has amazing installation of vultures. You can see them on mixedgreens.com. Nice article.
November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThad Simerly

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