Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy

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

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I have been told that in nature, everything is connected. I put this statement to the test in an experiment I named Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy. The project honors the wild animals used in natural history museum dioramas. Animals were hunted & preserved with taxidermy art for educational purposes. For my experiment, I harvested & studied valuable ‘specimen’ objects from my home to better understand my relationship to them.

Object selection

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

Sculpting Materials

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

The Creative Process

The chosen objects were 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 the pen. With a 3D 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.

Lastly, each 3D shape was paired with a handmade metal and/or wood design component as an indicator to point to a related use. 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!

Artifacts produced

Five sculptural compositions were created. The items in the slide show above are titled: Horsepower, Tea, Dr. Marten, Schrodinger’s Cat, & Paperless.

Final Observations

About the Unstuffed project title…

When I observe 19th century taxidermic animals, I long to pull them apart. I wonder about the life force that once inhabited these now inanimate bodies that are still covered in feathers, fur, & skin.  The 2nd law of thermodynamics in physics assures me that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change shape. Where does this invisible lifeforce go?