In Brooke Weston’s world of fantasy taxidermy, dead deer double as dollhouses.
Peaked roofs pop out of torsos. Staircases spiral up antlers like vines. The effect is both charming and a little creepy — macabre and magical.
Imagine “if Disneyland and a natural history museum got together,” Weston said with a laugh. “That’s my thing.”
The Los Angeles artist belongs to the rogue taxidermy movement, an art scene that’s been gaining ground in Southern California for about a decade. Practitioners range from L.A.-based Catherine Coan, whose theatrical tableaux offer an archly humorous take on the clash between humans and the natural world, to Ave Rose, whose bejeweled automata and stunning still sculptures recall Victorian curio cases.
According to Rose, artists are drawn to the tangible nature of taxidermy — a quality sometimes missing in modern life. “Everything’s digital now. Everything is kind of fleeting,” said Rose, who was also a contestant on Game Show Network’s “Steampunk’d” show. “People are looking for a tactile experience they can hold on to.”
“We want to work with our hands again. We want something that someone touched,” added Allis Markham, who creates meticulously realistic mounts for museums and nature centers, as well as A&E’s “Bates Motel” and Gucci’s “Guilty” ad campaign, as the owner of Prey Taxidermy in Los Angeles. “This art has that connection to the natural world.”
Coan, whose father is a hunter and fly fisherman, grew up in Montana in a house filled with taxidermy. She began incorporating taxidermied animals in her art in her series “Canary Suicides,” featuring whimsical tableaux of dead birds in captivity that serve as “little narratives, almost poems, about death and delight,” she wrote in an email. “I think the renewed interest in taxidermy today has to do with our understanding of and impact on the natural world,” wrote Coan, who calls her work “hybrid taxidermy.”