Saturday, March 20, 2010

Polly Morgan: Taxidermy

Having worked at a craft magazine for some time now, I have experienced the rather frenzied upset that can occur in response to taxidermy. There is no doubt, dead animals hit a chord with almost everyone, though not everyone understands this work as true craft. British artist Polly Morgan actually has a disclaimer on her website explaining where the animals have come from and the nature of their deaths, as well as a warning not to enter the site if disturbed by the site of dead animals. But it was Morgan's love for animals and a desire to preserve them that brought her to study under Scottish taxidermist George C Jamieson, eventually gaining artistic acclaim through her baroque still lives.

Morgan is very intentional in her compositions and materials; the animals (mostly birds) are "traditionally displayed, but [placed in] less than expected scenery. The scale and settings are often unnatural, but the animals are never anthropomorphised. Seeing them out of place encourages us to look at them as if for the first time." Admittedly, seeing many of these critters with their eyes closed and necks bent in sleep-like or even death-like poses strikes a different tone than the expected natural history museum diorama setting. This, coupled with a frequent juxtaposition to wunderkammer objects, leaves no doubt the animals are on display, but to what effect? Oftentimes the viewer finds them self witness to a 3D Renaissance painting. Other times, a still from a Hitchcock film. Even a scene from a life not unlike our own, where the magic of an animal in life is kept reverently close in death. [via the Unnaturalist]


  1. What a great interview; its great to learn about Polly's creative process.

  2. Thanks, Gem, though through no real doing of my own, I just hunt and display :) I'm a big taxidermy fan, and it's great to see a modern application in the contemporary art scene. Thanks for commenting!


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