I understand that my medium of choice when it comes to artistic expression is somewhat provocative, if not downright controversial.
I certainly don’t expect everyone to like it, nor do I expect the world at large to share the same carefully laid out map of moral boundaries and ethics I’ve arrived at myself through a never-ending process of trial and error. If we all thought the same thing, the world would be a tragically dull place, not to mention nothing would ever get done.
While working so closely with death, I’ve given much thought to the value of life and how it is appreciated so differently by different people and cultures. Some people raise poultry for a living; those birds are food to them and nothing else. Birds are kept in cages, living on top of one another and stepping in a pile of one another’s feces until the time comes for harvest. It’s easy to think of these creatures (or even look at them if you’ve ever been to a live poultry market), and feel heartbroken. For some, that is. For others, it’s just as easy to look into a cage and see what ranks a few links down on the food chain. Dinner. Sustenance, and nothing else. After years of careful thought and consideration, I fall somewhere in the middle. My work in the field of taxidermy has brought me in touch with hunters and butchers alike, and through my interactions with these folks I have gained an appreciation for the food that winds up on my plate, an appreciation I never had as a child. When I’ve met the animal whose life was extinguished to feed myself (or my cats), I appreciate the meat so much more. The responsibility of using each part to its fullest weighs so much heavier on me than if I’d bought some prepackaged beef from the market.
My point is this: I understand and appreciate the fact that my sheer existence/lifestyle comes at a price, and sometimes that price is the lives of other living creatures. For this, I am thankful and move throughout my day with an awareness I wouldn’t trade for all the blissful ignorance in the world. Plus, I love animals, I really do. I wouldn’t have gotten into taxidermy if that wasn’t the case. For those of you who haven’t heard this worn-out old story, I decided to get a book and teach myself the craft after seeing so many freshly perished birds on the city sidewalks post-skyscrapers-crash. The thought of these beautiful creatures just rotting on the sidewalk or being swept into a gutter made me sick. I wanted to preserve them, celebrate their beauty. And so I learned the art of taxidermy.
Ten years later, and I still hold the same philosophy. Of course, these amazing creatures are best when they’re living, moving, flying, running, barking, etc. But everything dies, whether by the hand of man or nature, and why let such beauty go to waste? This is why I’m happy to take a dead pet off of a friend’s hands, and also to use the skin of a chicken, pheasant, or even squirrel before making a delicious meal with the meat. I do the best I can to be sure my specimen are sourced ethically and humanely, but I hold no judgement for others who have a different set of values when it comes to the food chain. All I know is what’s right for me, and if I’ve learned anything in my 33 years on this earth it’s that the no two people should be expected to share the exact same moral compass.
I’ve received messages from individuals who are less than pleased about what I do. It would be terribly naive of me not to expect this, and to these people I want to say this: I hear you. I recognise what you’re saying (even if it’s not in the most polite wording) and I respect your point of view. I want you to know that I’m not thoughtlessly slaughtering animals just so I can wear one on my head. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is in no way an attempt to convince you that I’m right, or that you should agree with me, it’s just a clear explanation of my philosophy because from the tone of your emails/messages/comments I feel you may not have had all the facts before reaching out to me.
Peace be with yall.