‘It’s our entire relationship with animals’: Angela Singer on her art and taxidermy

If I have a hope for my work I think it’s that I hope people will question that… they will see the work, they will look at the work and they will question how the animal died, and why the animal died. This is the kitten that was donated by the woman who taxidermied it, using a book out of the library, and so it looks like home taxidermy – you can see it’s had quite a rough life because it’s been well loved. The start point for the artworks is the animal itself, particularly if I have been given the history of the taxidermy when it’s donated, and I try and work that history into the artwork and I try to create that visually. I think that taxidermy when you see it, it’s in sentimental poses, you know, it’s serene, it’s got some lovely representation of nature there – and this is the opposite. This is quite unnatural and I don’t particularly want it to be serene because the violence that was inflicted on it was anything but. I do use vintage brooches and vintage beads in my work and I adorn the animals. This is about honouring and giving them value and there can be kind’ve of a bit of repulsion with taxidermy and this is creating a push-pull so that when you look at the work you’re attracted – it’s sparkly, it looks lovely and then at the same time you’re repulsed because the animal is dead, and you might question: How did it come to be dead? I’m also exposing some of the aggression that the human has inflicted on the animal, because I’m looking at the taxidermy and stripping back some of that fur and finding bullet holes and knife wounds that have been stitched-up, that are in the skin, and then I’m emphasising those with the choice of colours. And so the jewels, they have incorporated into them this red, which represents that violence but you also have the beauty of the jewels, which is the beauty of the animal itself. I’m not sure if I’m trying to remind people what the animal has suffered, or whether I’m saying, you know, we’re all responsible, because, as humans, we’re exploiting animals all the time and here’s another reminder of what we’re doing to all animals. So really, the one work represents our entire relationship with animals.

1 comment

I personally have an appreciation for taxidermy (so I don't entirely agree with Angela's view against e.g. trophy animals), but her work is really lovely and I think it's wonderful that she's remodelling old pieces that might otherwise be thrown away. Although, I had to double check my old photos from a Te Papa trip for a second when the canine came up — I thought it was the kurī!

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