“Takeshi Yamada’s big catches at Coney Island Beach” (photograph by Diane M. Taros)

 

This article features subject matter such as the Atlantic horseshoe crab, taxidermy of prehistoric horseshoe crabs, T-rex bone, fossilized fairies, ceremonial dragon teeth, sea elephant tusk and scrimshaw.

 

My research and investigations in websites, books, magazines, periodicals, brochures and word of mouth from a variety of sources in Japan, China, Mexico, and America, since 2002 tells me that no humans including any marine biologists in history, created any realistic recreations of prehistoric, extinct horseshoe crabs, except me, Takeshi Yamada. This makes my three taxidermy artworks extremely unique and rare. Before stating the specific answer to your question, I want to state the background of how these taxidermy artworks come about. 

 

When I moved to Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York in 2002, I accidentally found that this is the major spawning beach of the Atlantic horseshoe crab. I started investigations and also started creating artworks being inspired by this magnificent marine organism. I created over 300 artworks of the horseshoe crab, which became the vital part of the international conservation of the horseshoe crab, assisted making TV news about this creature for the Japanese government’s TV station, gave lectures on the subject matter, and had over three dozen art exhibitions nation wide. Here is what I stated in my Artists Statement:

 

Artist’s Statement

Homage to the Horseshoe Crab

 

Limulus polyphemus - Kabutogani (Warrior’s Helmet Crab in Japan; Horseshoe Crab in the United States) is a living fossil and as such has outlived the most famous of fossils--the dinosaur. Only four species of horseshoe crabs remain today. One can be found on the East Coast of North America and the other three on the southeast coast of Asia. Surprisingly, they are actually more closely related to scorpions than crabs. In the United States, in the ancient time, Native Americans ate the horseshoe crab and used its tail as a spear. The Founding Fathers ground the creature as a fertilizer for their cornfields. Today, a test called LAL (Limulus Amebocyte Lysate) is made of the blood cells of the horseshoe crab’s unique copper-based blue-colored blood. LAL is used worldwide to test injectable drugs and biomedical devices. All the vaccines and antibiotic drugs (including ones for AIDS) for human and animal use are tested with LAL. The eggs of the horseshoe crab are also an essential food source for shorebirds during their annual migrations. The conservation of this creature is considered to be more urgent every year in this country. It might be hard to believe, but they visit the beaches of Brooklyn, New York every spring to spawn as they have done for thousands, possibly millions of years.

 

As one of the Advisory Board Members of Ecological Research & Development Group Inc. (a non-profit horseshoe crab conservation organization) and the Delaware Horseshoe Crab Research Institute (which also houses a museum), I have been extensively studying and researching peoples’ association with horseshoe crabs. My focus has been comparing the different traditions concerning the horseshoe crab found in the United States with those of Japan. Unlike the United States, people’s lives are very closely associated with the horseshoe crab in my home country of Japan. For centuries, horseshoe crabs have been featured in many artworks, poems and literature. One salient example of the horseshoe crab’s importance in Japanese culture is the phrase kabutogani-no-chigiri, an expression which compares the loving, caring and committed relationship between a husband and wife to that of a pair of horseshoe crabs. In the past, fishermen considered it a good omen to harvest a pair of horseshoe crabs from their first net dropped into the ocean on the first day of the Tai (sea bream) season.

 

Based on the Buddhist doctrine of Rinne Tensei (reincarnation of life), the horseshoe crabs are considered the reincarnations of Japanese samurai warriors who sacrificed their lives at major battles including the Japanese Civil War (1180 - 1185 AD). Today, the horseshoe crab is an official Tennen Kinenbutsu (Natural Monument), and is cared for by the people and protected by the Japanese government. Having such reverence for these dignified creatures, it was natural that Japan built the first Horseshoe Crab museum in the world. On a personal level, I found my existence closely related to this sublime creature the Warrior’s Helmet Crab. My first name, Takeshi, means “Warrior” and I was born into a respectable house of Samurai warriors in Japan.

 

At the beaches here in Brooklyn, New York, I have collected numerous dead horseshoe crabs. Locals find their odor offensive and ignore or leave them alone. This leaves many carcasses for me to collect and has provided the source of inspiration for this series of artworks. In the course of creating the series, I have re-examined a variety of different mythologies of the world such as the mermaid in Europe, Princess Otohime of Dragon’s Palace in China, and the Tale of Urashimatarou in Japan. (In Asian countries, the dragon is the ruler of Heaven. Dragons also guard the Chinese Emperor, and are a symbol of life force and vitality. Princess Otohime is a daughter of the dragon.) I have also investigated the history and culture of samurai warriors and the Kabuto (samurai warrior’s helmet). Samurai warriors originated as security guards of Japanese emperors and nobles, and later they became the ruling class (1333-1868 AD). Near the end of my investigations, I painted portraits of Princess Otohime of the Dragon’s Palace on the backs of horseshoe crabs as well as portraits of noble samurai warriors. The warrior designs are inspired by Kabuto and Haniwa (clay figures buried with the emperors and kings of ancient Japan). In addition, I have produced a series of intricate pen-and-ink drawings on paper using a dead horseshoe crab’s telson (sword-like tail) as a dipping pen. I find it is truly a remarkable tool despite the fact that other artists have totally ignored using it in this creative capacity.

 

My artworks are vehicles to please the eyes, uplift the spirit, stir the imagination and express conviction. It is my desire to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of the global nature of the world, its people and the bonds that mutually bind them. It is my sincere wish that my creativity and its products contribute to the advancement of the glorious culture based on the sanctity of life and true humanism.

 

 

Battle of Coney Island by Takeshi Yamada, 48x72 inch, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2000 -2002.

Detail below shows Atlantic horseshoe crab commonly seen at beach of Brooklyn, New York.

 

Takeshi Yamada dressed up as a Horseshoe Crab Warrior with Helen

Pontani, a famous New York entertainer at Mermaid Parade in 2004.

 

Yamada’s Horseshoe Crab Warrior Mask and article were featured in Weekly 24/7 newspaper, October 21,

2002, Brooklyn, New York. His horseshoe crab artwork was featured in newspapers in several languages.

 

Yamada with his Samurai Warrior’s Ceremonial Mask at Pro US Troop Larry at 42nd Street of Manhattan

on March 23, 2003. His picture and interview was featured in Sing Tao Chinese Community (newspaper)

next day (March 24). The headline reads A Rally Held in Manhattan in Support of the US Military Forces.

 

My horseshoe crab art in the collection of the Museum of World Wonder is quite different from other artifacts and specimens. For me, the horseshoe crab art project was not something which just stays inside of the small limited communities of mid way of the circus sideshow tent, commercial galleries, university galleries and fine art museums. Specifically, I took my horseshoe crab artworks to the street and tried to directly appeal to people for the positive social cause which I felt obligation to do so. I brought my Japanese samurai warrior’s ceremonial mask with me on March 23, 2003, on the occasion of the major pro-US troop rally at the 42nd street in Manhattan, New York. (I attended many such rallies.) I was interviewed by several news reporters there. The interview and photograph were featured in a Chinese newspaper – Star Island Daily News: Sing Tao Community (page B1). Here is what it wrote in its third paragraph: You could hardly find any one of Chinese origin in the rally. Nevertheless, Takeshi Yamada, of Japanese origin, was seen standing at the forefront with a Japanese traditional mask for wording-off the devil in his hand. He pointed out what he supported was not war, but the US President and the US army. “Between Saddam and Bush, I certainly choose Bush and support him”, he said. As a Buddhist, he hates killing. In fact, Saddam is “Ma” devil oppressing and killing Iraqi people. This is why he was in the rally in supporting of the US forces getting rid of the devil on earth.” War is tragic; but this war is inevitable. And the US military forces took a great care to avoid causing any casualties among the Iraqi people”, he added. A sentence below the color photograph reads: Takeshi Yamada of Japanese origin was seen at the forefront with a traditional Japanese mask for wording-off the devil. 

 

As the part of my horseshoe crab project, I also created taxidermy artworks (not simple artworks) of 3 species of prehistoric horseshoe crabs. Being inspired by the actual fossil record of horseshoe crabs lived 400 million years ago (now extinct), they were reconstructed. I used the carcasses (exoskeletons) of today’s Atlantic horseshoe crabs for them, and I still think it was the best way to recreate/reconstruct/reproduce these extinct prehistoric ancient magnificent horseshoe crabs rather than making them with fiberglass. They were exhibited at my solo exhibitions at Salt Marsh Nature Center in Brooklyn, New York, and Arsenal Gallery in Manhattan, New York, which are run by the New York City Parks & Recreation Department in 2003. They were also exhibited at my recent exhibition at the Long Island University during the New York State’s National Marine Education Association’s Annual Conference in 2006.

 

A unique taxidermy artwork (three dimensional simulation) of prehistoric giant horseshoe

crab #1which lived 400 million years ago by Takeshi Yamada. 27-1/2 x 10 x 3 inch. 2003.

 

A unique taxidermy artwork (three dimensional simulation) of prehistoric giant horseshoe

crab #2 which lived 400 million years ago by Takeshi Yamada. 34 x 10 x 3 inch. 2003

 

A unique taxidermy artwork (three dimensional simulation) of prehistoric giant horseshoe

crab #3 which lived 400 million years ago by Takeshi Yamada. 29.5x12x4.25 inch. 2003

 

The shapes of prehistoric extinct horseshoe crabs are quite different from the one we see at the beach here at the Atlantic coast in America now. There are many websites featuring a variety of the extinct horseshoe crabs such as their scientific drawings, photographs of fossils, X-ray photographs, descriptions and scientists' renderings. Personally speaking, I especially like Cyamocephalus loganensis and Weinbergina hunsruck shale. The pictures shown below clearly illustrate how their designs closely resemble those of the trilobites and sea scorpions.

 

  

 

Investigations of nature tell us a lot of things. For example, the factual & organic is not always translated into the realistic & natural by human perceptions. Some creatures simply look too unnatural to humans. For this reason, I am not planning to create taxidermy of Austrolimulus fletcheri Riek, one of the extinct horseshoe crab, because its carapace does not even look like a horseshoe at all. I do not think people can accept this horseshoe crab existed on this planet even if I showed the actual fossil next to my taxidermy recreation artwork.  

 

 

The matter of what is real and what is believable is a completely different matter. It is a difference between the Fact and the Perception. Mermaid is not real but it does not mean you can not make it believable. The same can be said to fairies.

 

Being inspired by the fossils of prehistoric horseshoe crabs, I created a series of fossilized creatures as new gaffs for circus sideshows. Historically, professional taxidermists do not handle any fossilized animals. Nevertheless, my background is not that of a simple taxidermist. Creation of the series of my fossilized creature gaffs was not by accident. I created fossilized animals such as the Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex Bones, Fossilized Fairies, Fossilized Giant Cockroach, Fossilized Sea Elephant Task, and Fossilized Dragon Teeth.

 

I submitted about a dozen photographs of my taxidermy artworks to a variety of websites.  Surprisingly, my Fossilized Fairies won the first prize of this year’s annual faux photo contest sponsored by one of the American websites dedicated to the investigation of paranormal phenomenon of the earth and universe. Incidentally, the website features varieties of paranormal phenomena such as aliens, ghosts & haunting, crypto zoology - weird creatures/monsters, life after death, lost words, mad science, divination, prophets & prophecies, psychic phenomena, witch crafts & spells, UFO, ESP, urban legends & folklore, out of place artifact and more. These are subject matters I have been interested in since I was a little child.

(http://paranormal.about.com)

 

My fossilized fairy (as well as my giant nuclear radiation beetles and human-faced insects) are also featured in one of the major pet insect internet websites in America.

(http://gallery.pethobbyist.com)

My fossilized fairies reflect my investigations of homunculus of Paracelsus, alchemy, today’s genetic engineering, and fossilized ancient horseshoe crabs, in addition to my passion for pet insects and circus sideshows. For me, they are very personal works reflecting my life in Japan and America.

 

Note: The culture of pet insect is very serious and big business in Japan for many centuries. Since I was a little child, I was influenced by pet insect culture in Japan. I have been passionate about pet insects such as Kabutomushi (rhinoceros beetle), Kuwagatamushi (stag beetle), and Suzumushi (Japanese bell cricket). I personally bred over 50 different species of insects when I was a child. I wrote on this matter with great details in one of the 28 chapters entitled Pet Insect Culture in Japan in my 400+ page book entitled “An Atlas of the Horseshoe Crab”. I also wrote over two dozens of extensive articles and published them in internet websites (created in England and America) about how to breed giant insects, especially Gromphadorhina portentosa or better known as the Madagascar giant hissing cockroach, based on many decades of my personal experience and research.

(http://www.insectshop.co.uk/cgi-bin/forum/index.pl?board=cockroaches)

(http://forums.insecthobbyist.com/forum.php?catid=10)

(http://www.hissingcockroach.com/t1.htm)

 

Bone of Tyrannosaurus Rex by Takeshi Yamada, 7-1/2 x 3 x 3-1/2 inch, 2005. A real large

bone of a cow was used to create this gaff. T-rex was one of the largest land carnivores of

all time, about 12 to 13 meters (40 to 43.3 feet) long, and 5 m (16.6 ft) tall, when fully-grown.

 

Fairies seen in antique Victorian postcards. These small humanoid creatures have insect wings.

 

Fossilized Fairy #1 by Takeshi Yamada, 2005. 21.9x23.8x3.1 cm.

 

Fossilized Fairy #2 by Takeshi Yamada, 2005. 20.8 x 18.9 x 1.1cm.

 

When I showed my Fossilized Fairies to Jack Constantine, the owner of the Florida-based traveling circus sideshow company Museum of World Oddities, he commissioned me a fossilized giant cockroach to be displayed at his circus sideshow. He said 6-inch cockroach is believable and also interesting to see. This is how my “Fossilized Giant Cockroach” was born.

 

Fossilized Giant Cockroach by Takeshi Yamada, 2005, Its body is 6inch

Collection of Museum of World Oddities in Florida

 

Incidentally, as early as 1988 in America, I started creating a series of super realism life-like, life-size three dimensional believable super realism sculptures simulating fossilized artifacts and specimens such as Dragon Teeth, Sea Elephant Tusks, and sperm whale teeth. These are also things, which licensed taxidermists do not handle for their profession. 

 

“Ceremonial Dragon Tooth, excavated from the ruin of Palace of Ocean in Coney Island

by Takeshi Yamada, 6-5/8” x 2-1/4” x 1”, 1988. Enshrined in the family alter of Shintoism.

A series of this magical and mysterious religious object were also created in 2001.

 

“Ceremonial Sea Elephant Tusk, excavated from the ruin of Palace of Ocean in Coney Island

by Takeshi Yamada, 38-5/8” x 4-1/4” x 1-1/2. A series of them were created in 2001.

 

The shape and symbolism of animal teeth fascinated me since I was a little child. History, art, and culture of American scrimshaw also inspired me and I created a series of artworks as shown below. I first created super realism replicas of the sperm whale teeth by using man-made materials because I can not purchase the real things due to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which passed in 1972. (The Act establishes a moratorium on taking and importing marine mammals, their parts, and products. The Act provides protection for polar bears, sea otters, walruses, dugongs, manatees, whales, porpoises, seals, and sea lions.)

 

  

(left) Sperm whale tooth prayer beads with silver chain (gaff) by Takeshi Yamada, 2004

(right) “Mermaid”, Scrimshaw on sperm whale tooth (gaff) by Takeshi Yamada, 6-1/4”x3-1/2”x1-1/2”,

2004. Yamada created five scrimshaw artworks featuring the image of mermaid (and her baby).

 

Note: Scrimshaw is painstakingly hand-processed (curved and/or engraved) on ivory or bone traditionally. This form of craft was practiced for centuries by the Inuit and other native groups and tribes before the arrival of Christianity along the Northwest Coast. This specific form of craft was adopted by the Yankee whalemen of the early 1800's. American Whalemen's Scrimshaw is one of only a few indigenous American crafts. In fact, it is widely accepted, as America's most important (and expensive) folk art among collectors. According to some of the ancient whalemen, as long as two to five-year voyages quickly became monotonous, so some of them turned to working with baleen, whale teeth, and jawbones, all of which were in abundant supply. In fact, on many ships, whale teeth were part of the pay, and were often traded to shopkeepers in port for goods or services. Common subjects represented on the ivory include whaling scenes, ships, women, and scenes copied from fine art prints or magazines of the day. It did not, however, receive wide spread recognition until President John F. Kennedy, an enthusiastic collector, brought Scrimshaw to the public eye. In recent decades, with the disappearance of whaling and American Whaling Fleet, the traditional scrimshaw also has ceased to exist. Today, a handful artisans and artists follow this tradition on the land and create scrimshaw by using fossilized ivories and recycled ivories.

 

 

END

 

 

All rights reserved by Takeshi Yamada, Museum of World Wonders, August 2006

Special thanks to Eriko N. Bond, Lauren D. Travis, Diane M. Taros, Taisha Hutchison.

 

Takeshi Yamada © 2006 Copyright all rights reserved

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