My interest in taxidermy began as a fascination with the aesthetic side of the natural sciences. In a sense, taxidermy presents the perfect blend of art and science. It offers an exemplary case of how, when the two come together, they create something totally unique, frequently wrong, and altogether compelling.
What is taxidermy? Art, nature, or science? Something happens when the three occur together, and this blog is part of my larger investigation to figure out what precisely that something is.
Ravishing Beasts began as part of my post-Doctoral Fellowship in the History Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
The project included three parts: this blog, a book, and an exhibition. The book, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing was published by Penn State Press as part of their new Animalibus series. The exhibition, Ravishing Beasts: The Strangely Alluring World of Taxidermy was curated at the Museum of Vancouver using the museum's own almost forgotten natural history collection. The exhibition received a broad spectrum of international attention from Wallpaper magazine to Readers’ Digest. Read more about the exhibition here.
I hold a Ph.D. from the Programme of Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia. Also funded by the SSHRC, my thesis, “To make the stubborn Clod relent: Climate, Culture, and Cultivation in Early Modern England,” investigates cultural interpretations of climate and nature in seventeenth-century England. I also hold B.F.A. in painting and printmaking from the University of British Columbia, a Post-Baccalaureate in painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from Stanford University, during which time I focussed on material culture and early modern cabinets of curiosity. I have worked with collections at various galleries and museums including the Medical Division of Stanford Special Collections, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, the Diane Farris Art Gallery in Vancouver, and the Museum of Vancouver.
In 2009, I worked with the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. I designed and wrote their tetrapod and fish exhibits -- over 200 displays, an amazing experience!
Please contact me with your opinions and sightings at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just a word of warning, I receive many e-mails. I try to respond to every one, but sometimes it takes me awhile.
Beaver. Reaktion Book's Animal Series. 2014.
2011. "The Living Body of Balto," in The Afterlives of Animals: A Museum Menagerie, ed. Samuel J.M.M. Alberti (University of Virginia Press).
2010. "Botched Animals and Enigmatic Beasts," in Curious Collectors, Collected Curiosities: An Interdisciplinary Study, ed. Nhora Lucia Serrano and Janelle A. Schwartz. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press.
2005. "Vegetal Prejudice in Early Modern England," in Textual Healing: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Medicine. ed. Elizabeth Furdell. Leiden: Brill Academic Press, 169-193
Magazines, Journals, etc:
2013. "Giant Spiders and Making Walking," TREK: The Magazine of the University of British Columbia.
2012. "A Case for Darwin," Cabinet Magazine 47.
2012. "How to Scruntize a Beaver," The Believer 10:7.
2012. “Preservation Society,” The New Inquiry, 8.
2012. "Obsessed: Taxidermy," Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-poliquin/obsessed-taxidermy_b_1633059.html
2012. "UBC's King of Cult," TREK: The Magazine of the University of British Columbia.
2012. Interview with feather artist Kate MccGwire, in Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, 20. Alternative Ornithologies.
2011. “The Beastly Art of Taxidermy,” TREK: The Magazine of the University of British Columbia.
2008. "The Matter and Meaning of Museum Taxidermy," museum & society 6:2. online: http://www.le.ac.uk/ms/museumsociety.html
2008. "Ophelia by the Idiots" reprinted from ravishingbeasts in Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, 7.
2008. "Hunting the Windy Vapors" (a medical history of the windy passions), The Believer 6:8.
2008. "Objects of Loss and Remembrance," an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Taxidermy and Longing and "Ravishing Beasts," an interview with Rachel Poliquin, both published in Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, 6. Special edition: Rogue Taxidermy.
2007. "The Visual Erotics of the Mini-Marriage" (a cross-eyed history of cute), The Believer 5:9.
2011. "An Intimacy of Animal Looking," Fern Helfand: About Looking. Vernon Public Art Gallery.
2010. Ravishing Beasts: The Strangely Alluring World of Taxidermy. Museum of Vancouver.
2009. "Immortal Beauties," Mary Frey: Imaging Fauna. http://www.blurb.com/books/813061
2012. Archives of Natural History 38:2 Title reviewed: Pat Morris, A history of taxidermy: art, science and bad taste.
2004. "Dissecting Disciplinarity," Canadian Literature. 182: 141-143. (Titles reviewed: Between Literature and Science: Poe, Lem, and Explorations in Aesthetics, Cognitive Science, and Literary Knowledge, Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, and The Living Prism: Itineraries in Comparative Literature)
2003. "Curious Knowledge," Canadian Literature. 179: 115-118. (Titles reviewed: The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and their Collectors, Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, and The Oxford Companion to the Body)
2002. "The Alphabet of Suffering," Canadian Literature. 174: 117-119. (Titles reviewed: Idioglossia and The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late Nineteenth- Century English Culture)