I have always considered myself a traditional taxidermist. I never had the desire to do novelty work like squirrels playing cards or boxing each other. An occasional deer-foot gun-rack or lamp were my most common ventures into the arena of novelty taxidermy. Yes, I had some unusual requests in my former 35 years as a full-time commercial taxidermist, and with the business mind-set of keeping my customers happy, if their requests were not too far from traditional taxidermy, I would do it. Since the beginning of my taxidermy career my main desire was to recreate my taxidermy in nature’s way with as much anatomic accuracy as possible.
In my opinion, a lot of commercial and competition traditional taxidermy is art, such as compositions that tell a story or relate to specific attitudes of animals. Even a standard deer head on a wall or fish on a panel can qualify, but as mentioned, it is all in the eyes and minds of the beholders.
This article and review of what just might be the next big step forward in taxidermy takes on a whole different meaning as art relates to taxidermy. It definitely is an endeavor to take the art part of taxidermy to another level and to be totally honest. I like it. I will confess I am not a active viewer of the current fad of Facebook, but my wife Kathy is, and often she will say, “You have got to see this!” A while back she showed me some of the taxidermy that Dennis Harris of Michigan had posted on Facebook. The piece that really caught my attention was a zebra completed in the artsy manner, with the outer skin patterned in the shape of the African continent with the head mounted in the middle. I immediately gave it a thumbs-up—it was attractive, different, and very artsy. I saw Dennis last January at the Big Rock show in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he brought an artistic presentation of a Kudu to display in a division of their competition. It was a very impressive piece and I asked Dennis about it. He said the idea came from some taxidermy he had seen at the SCI show in Las Vegas during the January 2015 show by one of the South African taxidermy studios. He could not wait to get back in his shop and try his hand at this new and different style for game head taxidermy. His method for the Kudu was using paper mache to do the freehand shapes and design. He said it ended up weighing over 100 pounds when finished, but he was very happy with the results. He should have been happy as his final piece was excellent and I immediately saw it as the newest form of taxidermy art. He takes no credit for the idea, but his designs since are each unique pieces.
This summer while attending the United Taxidermists Association show in Louisville, Kentucky, on display in the McKenzie supply booth were two of their new forms introduced in the 2015-16 catalog #41. The new series was named New Taxidermy Wall Art. Side-by-side were the zebra wall form and a mounted zebra on the same model. 1-2 (previous pages). I just happen to have a zebra and a wildebeest from a safari I made a few years ago waiting for my attention. I could not resist the temptation and went to Mike Gillis the second day of the show and bought both forms. Mike also mentioned that there were plans to expand the selection mainly by adapting heads of other African plans game to the model currently for the wildebeest.
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