Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy

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



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In nature, everything is connected.

I put this principle to the test in an experiment called Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy. Taxidermy art has an historical legacy as an educational tool. Wild animals have been hunted, killed, and posed in natural history museum dioramas for educational purposes.  For the Unstuffed—The New Taxidermy project, I built sculpture ‘specimens’ from my own life to study.

Materials used for Object selection

I started by turning my attention to objects I value. I limited the selection area to my homeinside & outside. I am probably like many people in that my home holds many things I cherish. I chose from these items as if I was taking a walk on a beach, collecting empty shells. Five items were chosen: A pony’s harness, a teapot given as a wedding present, a Dr. Marten brand man’s shoesize 10, a cement doorstop in the shape of a feline, & my left hand.

The Sculpting Materials Used

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

The Creative Process

Each chosen object was wrapped completely 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 wrapping method. Next, I used a 3D pen to trace intricate designs on the taped surfaces.  I used my imagination to invent where & how these lines connected. Each delicate design was intentionally complicated to be unique, like a fingerprint is. This drawing process is entirely manual & meditative. With the push of a button, hot resin leaves the pen tip and then hardens quickly on the tape. Once cool, the drawn shape was easily unmolded from the taped surface. Often individual sections were created in pieces and then fused together to build the complete, hollow form. Lastly, each 3D shape was paired with a handmade metal and/or wood design component to indicate a related purpose.

I recorded some of the creative process with some helpful cats and dogs. That video can be viewed here.

Artifacts produced

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

Final Conclusions

About the Unstuffed project title…

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