Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy

PLA Resin, Steel, Wood, Graphite, Paint, Fabric—2017

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This project honors the wild animals used in natural history museum dioramas. Animals were once hunted & preserved with taxidermy art for educational purposes.  I harvested & studied valuable ‘specimen’ objects from my home to better understand my relationship to them in this creative exercise.

Object selection

Like many people, my home holds items that I cherish. I chose five objects as if I was collecting favorite shells at the seashore. An equine’s harness, a teapot wedding present, a Dr. Marten brand men’s shoe, a cement feline doorstop, & my left hand became my muse. (note: my non-dominant left hand is capable of drawing an expressive line that my right hand can’t).

Sculpting Materials

3D pen, PLA Resin, Steel, Wood, Graphite, Paint & Painter’s Tape, Fabric

The Creative Process

Each object was individually wrapped in blue painter’s tape. At this stage, I noticed that these items reminded me of mummified Egyptian relics, partially because of the bright blue color but also because of the deliberate wrapping method. Wrapping was necessary to protect each item from the heat of a 3D pen. With the pen, I traced intricate designs on the taped surfaces.  I used my imagination to invent where & how these lines connected; like an intricate neural web around each solid form. This 3D pen drawing process is entirely manual, and meditative. The result is intentionally singular, like a fingerprint, and not for reproduction.

The 3D pen works with the push of a button. Resin from a spool is fed through the pen to a hot extruder.  The liquefied resin hardens quickly on the tape surface after leaving the pen’s tip. Once cool, the drawn shapes are easily un-molded from the taped surface by my hands. I created each object in pieces. When I had all the sections completed I used the pen again to fuse pieces together into a final, hollow form.

In the final step, each 3D shape was paired with a related shape, made of metal. A video record of this project occurred with animal companions as supervisors. No animals were harmed or used as objects in the making of this work!

Final Observations

About the Unstuffed project title…When I observe taxidermy animals, I often wonder about the life force that once inhabited the now inanimate forms.