I have returned from Brooklyn a winner…in so many ways. The entire two day experience was a blast, the crowning moment obviously being when I was presented the title “Best in Show” at the Carnivorous Nights taxidermy contest. The evening was a cavalcade of awesome, however, beginning with arriving at the venue and peeking at the other entries. I felt very timid and nervous, not having any idea how this whole thing was to go down, and lying on the presentation table backstage were some pieces that I would embarrassingly refer to many times that night as “stiff competition”. (Could’ve been the one too many cocktails to steel my nerves or my complete lack of wit, take your pick).
Melissa Milgrom, author of Still life, adventures in taxidermy, opened up the evening with a brief chat and I was hanging on her every word. Even though I’d read the book and all that she described was somewhate familliar to me, I always admire a decent public speaker.
Mike Zohn, host of Discovery Channel’s new show “Oddities” was the key-note speaker and I loathe to admit that his speech was lost on me because at that point my nerves were starting to get the best of me. My hands were shaking and I was trying to go over my presentation in my head while fighting off the near-crippling fear that I would say something stupid. Thankfully I was seated next to my dear friend Thea who brought her recording equipment and was producing a piece about the event. I look forward to listening to her material so I can refresh myself on what I may have missed. Behind me was Daisy Tainton, who I traded quips with throughout the evening. She specialises in insects and snark. Seriously, her presentation has me spraying red wine out my nose. In fact, I found most of the contestants to be quick with a joke and very humorous. I, on the other hand, was possibly just the right combination of awkward, sad and sweet.
Here I am describing my first entry, Elke 2.0. She was the beloved rat terrier to a local Philadelphia family for 14 years before she passed recently in her sleep. I spoke of getting the call from a friend about the friend I was about to meet, and my trepidatious handling of the manner. Basically what I tried to convey (and I believe reached everyone present) is my undying, unconditional love for animals and my goal to treat them with utmost respect after death. It was slightly emotional.
Next to Elke 2.0 is Grazyana, a Polish hen which belonged to another friend of mine. I buy fresh eggs from him whenever they’re available and this little gal didn’t make it to laying age. She was petite and so special; I imagined her as a Princess Bride.
On my head is a piece composed of a Selama hen, also a donation from my chicken master pal. I basically mounted her in a position which would hug her to my scalp, with a wing fashionablly covering one side. Lately I’ve been inspired by the beauty of feathers and how the dermis can be manipulated into different positions which accentuate this natural beauty. I’m enjoying the attempt to mount creatures in ways that would not be found in nature.
Winner! I went out to celebrate with my gracious hosts that night and celebrated until 3am. I woke up exhausted but still elated. Thankfully that elation stayed with me, through my ten block walk down 7th ave (after getting dropped off at Penn Station instead of 42nd street) while clutching a giant trophy and 3 foot long box of taxidermy sculpture, as well as my navigation of the Broad Street line and subsequent walk home from the station.
There were several impressive write-ups covering the event including a piece in the NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Drew Anthony Smith is a photographer I met who took some really terrific pictures of the event several blogs covered the night’s festivities quite nicely. I suggest reading these (Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire, Pink Slip, Stars and Garters, Big Bad Bald Bastard, to name a few) for more coverage on the other contestants since every entry was fantastic and I’m only telling my own story here.