Flayed Animals play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification. Bears especially interest me as they are the ultimate stuffed animals; both the iconic plush toy and the prized taxidermy specimen for hunters. Most of all the sculptures deal with vulnerability. A stuffed bear is the enduring toy of childhood. The fierce predator declawed and defanged to become a child’s beloved friend and sense of security. The pieces explore the tension between the reality of the animal and the vulnerability imbued in toy; the wild and the tame, the beautiful and grotesque.
No matter how people feel about rabbits, almost all can agree that they are cute. Like the panda, they are judged by their looks. Humans are seemingly hardwired to respond to childlike features: large head, big eyes, soft contours. The panda is nature’s ready-made teddy bear; a carnivore evolved into a safe herbivore. Fluffy and charismatic, they are the perfect poster child for the conservation movement.
Rabbits force us to look at hypocrisy of cute and how we treat a cute animal. Rabbits hit us exactly in our most uncomfortable moral spot when we consider whether to eat them or experiment on them. Whole Foods brought this out when they launched a program to sell rabbit meat in 2014. Protesters stood outside the door condemning the store for selling our pets as dinner. Protesters held up signs of a fluffy rabbit with a knife and fork hovering above it looking cute and innocent. Chickens, fish, cows and pigs do not provoke the same level of outrage; no one stood with the rabbit people advocating for them.
We are irrational about animals and how we decide which are loved or hated. Most of us live with these inconsistencies without examining them. In the panda and rabbits I want to play with peoples’ expectations and emotions; peel away some of the preconceptions and expose the unease of our relationship with each animal and how we symbolize them.
Many people assume my sculptures are created from taxidermy. They are not. I make everything by hand, starting with painted sketches and sculpted maquettes. I embroider samples to figure out the linen and fur colors, floss colors and stitch directions. I then sculpt the body, make the fabric pattern and sew the linen and fur together. I hand embroider the organ systems onto the linen. The head and paws are then sculpted in polymer clay, baked and the fur carefully glued on. Everything is then assembled together and permanently attached. The finished object is important to me; like the stuffed toys that are the first objects we treasure, the sculptures become beings completely contained within themselves.