My work walks the line between taxidermy, toy and sculpture. Each sculpture is meticulously fabricated to create an unnervingly accurate but slightly off version of the natural animal. Evolution has always held a particular fascination for me, informing how I create and group the animals in my work. As I’ve read and dug through museum collections to research my pieces, western science’s mania for labeling, codifying and collecting has stood out. More so, we categorize animals in two ways; scientifically and emotionally. Despite all of our effort to map out how life evolved, carefully defining orders and families, we still by and large judge animals by an irrational system of emotional morality.
Flayed Animals play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification. Bears 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. In the rabbits I want to play with peoples’ expectations and emotions; peel away some of the preconceptions and expose the unease of our relationship with these animals and how we symbolize them. Flayed Animals explores the tension between the reality of the animal and the vulnerability of the toy; the wild and the tame, the beautiful and grotesque.
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.