When one thinks of taxidermy, usually images of mounted deer heads on wooden plaques, bass on driftwood, or squirrels standing upright clutching acorns usually come to mind.  Even in it's traditional mildest forms, taxidermy is a pleasure to gaze upon for most, however for some it is simply repulsive.  Regardless, there is a dark side to this unusual artform, which is unbeknownst by most, but loved and collected by many.  Before it had been "officially classified", I coined the phrase "White Trash Taxidermy", when I was being interviewed for a website on odd taxidermy available via eBay and the Internet.  Since then, it has been dubbed the classier term, "Rogue Taxidermy" - simply meaning taxidermy which falls somewhere outside the realm of traditional methodology, and what is considered by most to be the "norm".  This includes taking actual fresh specimens and turning them into something completely different than they started out as, taking an existing taxidermied mount and converting it into something else altogether (by adding and taking away from it), or even faux taxidermy (fabricated a simulated mounted specimen completely from scratch) - or actually any combination, thereof.  Any gaffed animal, humanoid being, and/or the unholy union of the two, would fall under this unique category.  So suddenly, creatures that never really existed at all, or shouldn't even exist, are suddenly springing to life - well, sort of, at least.


Rogue Taxidermy is actually not a new concept, by any means, and has been going on for centuries - mostly for exhibition purposes, and for the sheer amusement of their creator.  The oldest reference to anything that would fall into this category, is when Marco Polo traveled to India, and was presented with shaven mummified monkey bodies, which were attempted to be sold as dead pygmies bu the locals.  The Jenny Haniver, better known as the classic "Devil Fish", dates back to over 300 years to Europe, although most modern versions have been produced as macabre souvenirs in Mexico and the Phillipines.  They have been made in numerous styles and configurations, from members of the skate and ray families, throughout history.  The fresh body of the animal is cut, bent, and shaped, until they look like a half human / half fish mutant, or some bizarre aquatic creature, which has never been seen by human eyes before.  When one looks at a "Devil Fish", you are actually looking at its underside.  What appear to be eyes are actually its gills - the mouth is however its own.  Its actual eyes are on the topside, as the creature swims belly down (in real life) throughout the depths of the ocean.  Even knowing this though doesn't make them any less creepy to view.


Then we have the Mermaid, with the most famous of course being Barnum's "FeeJee Island Mermaid".  Funny thing is that Barnum actually leased it (he never actually owned it), and the obvious mis-spelling of the island of Fiji's name.  Regardless, the creature was apparently never photographed (which I find very hard to believe), and common belief is that it was destroyed in one of the numerous fires inflicted upon Barnum's museums by supposed Yankee sympathizers.  Strange thing is that the mermaid in question was certainly not the only one in existence, nor do I believe it to be the monkey / fish combo that is always described in its historical literary descriptions.  Having actually had in my possession one of the smaller Victorian specimens, in the more common "swimming" position", I can most definitively say that they are part primitive taxidermy and part complete fabrication - and without any monkey parts present, whatsoever.  Besides, when have you ever seen a monkey that looked like that anyhow?  Their understructures are wood, the fish portion is tanned skin - simply glued over the form, the teeth came from a fish, the upper torso is covered in glued on brown tissue paper, and the fins were inserted into place afterwards.  Seems that these mermaids were once turned out by the thousands in actual factories in Japan, and not for the purpose for which you are probably thinking.  Apparently they were talismans to insure farmers good crops.  I am not certain what the exact correlation was between the two.  However, there it is, nonetheless.  These are the same exact mermaids that you see to this very day in nearly every single Ripley's museum.  You'd think with all that were apparently manufactured, that there would be a lot more left around today.  The only reason that they ended up as oddities in the first place, is because some damn Victorian European got hold of one for his "Cabinet of Curiosities, then everyone else had to have one too - including the one Barnum rented.  However, his came with a much more interesting story!


Today, this unsettling trend of "Rogue Taxidermy" continues onward, with no sign of slowing down - in fact quite the opposite.  As with anything, if there's enough interest in it, everyone and their brother will jump on the bandwagon.  Everyone that is from experienced professional taxidermists, to closet wannabe gaff artists, are now cashing in on the popularity.  And with the re-invention of "SteamPunk", by simply giving it a cool new name, it has now opened the door to a whole new onslaught of artists and creations in this specialty field.  Some of the top names of true professionals currently known for this type of creation are Sabrina Brewer, Takeshi Yamada, Rick Larue, and Hajime Emoto.  If you are not already familiar with these fine folk's work, then do yourself a real favor and do so - immediately.  They are the best of the best at what they do.  The funny thing is though, that unless someone specializes in this sort of work, then it's sometimes rather hard to get a legitimate taxidermist to do anything outside of what they consider to be normal for them.  I've personally talked to some who believed it to basically be a sin to alter a natural animal in any way, shape, or form.  It had to be mounted as nature intended it to be - nothing more or less.  Honestly, I was more than a bit shocked.  Afterall, you'd think after all the deer heads and bass mounts they've done, something fun and different would be a welcomed diversion for them.  Apparently not!!!  It's all I can do sometimes to get a taxidermist to make me a Swamp Booger head any longer.  These are what is known in the industry as a "Novelty Taxidermy" item.  Something relatively easily made up from scrap or spare parts, for the taxidermist to generate some extra scratch for themselves.  The classic booger head is fabricated from the hind end of a white tail deer, traditionally.  However, I have actually seen them made up from other animals as well.  Usually the rump end is inverted, with the deer's tail becoming a "beard", the rectum becomes a mouth (sometimes with teeth or jawsets added), then the facial features are worked in, and glass eyes added - all over a styrofoam mannequin head.  Some are rather cheesy, to say the least.  However, when they are done well they can be downright spooky to look at.


Earlier I mentioned "Faux Taxidermy", which is honestly the unsung hero of Rogue Taxidermy itself.  It's one thing to use real animals, and/or animal parts in an artistic creation, and add or take away from an existing creature, in order to make something completely new and different.  However, the sheer abilty to create something from nothing, that looks so incredibly realistic and believable, is truly a wonder unto itself to behold.  It takes a great deal more thought, dedication, originality, and true talent to do so as well.  Which is why so few actually dare venture into this forsaken artistic territory.  Thankfully though some have, and their works shout at volumes that are outright deafening!!!


By the way, where can a fellow go anymore these days, to get a really good Fur Bearing Trout, when he really needs one???...


Mark Frierson




Articles - Links - Mis

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Immortalized Episode 3

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Rogue Taxidermy

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