Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Dead Things

Taxidermy is a helluva thing. Growing up, it was pretty much relegated to the natural history museum or rednecks. It sought to educate or it was shorthand for "dumb hick" in the media. Note, when I talk of taxidermy, I don't mean antlers. Antlers have an artsy, structural appeal that transcends preserved skin on the walls. Alaska, is the land of stuffed dead things. It does one of those circle things where you start at "kinda cool" move into "holy shit, that's a lot of taxidermy" right into "that's so many dead creatures it's cool again." like a John Belushi sketch.

I realized there are only a few categories of mounts (that is the technical term for taxidermed things). These are: Fierce, Majestic, and Furnishings.

Fierce runs the gamut from wolverines to bears. I challenge you to find a bear mount that doesn't have it's mouth open, ready to tear out your trachea. It is 100% like that Far Side comic. In the Anchorage Airport, there is a display with two mouth-open polar bears in a plexiglass display. One is standing up on two legs, one is down on all fours. Both want to eat your innards. In the wild, though, these two would fight each other rather than you since their personal space bubbles are huge due to the sparse food in their range. Also, up on two legs is a curious, checkin things out pose for a bear. Think of it like prarie-dogging in cubicle land. Up is not a fight pose.

The smaller, varmint critters are usually taxidermed as fierce. Perhaps the hunter wants to feel justified killing a 9-pound thing. These have their teeth bared and are protecting a kill or carrion. These approach furniture category since they often are in a coffee table, but they are fierce first. Wolverines are the most common fierce little thing, but they are pretty much super badass so they get a pass from me.

Next up are the majestic creatures. These are often antlered/horned quadrupeds looking wistfully in the distance with their dead, glass eyes. You will find several deer, sheep, boar, goat, moose, caribou, elk or bison heads staring wistfully through you, to your soul. I doesn't matter if it is a full cape mount or just the face, they all look like this. They are pining from the leas or crags they came from. Ducks on the wing or other fowl in flight fit here too. Look at that goose, trying to migrate when someone shot it and decorated the den with it's carcass.

Last is furniture. This category includes all the wall hangings, rugs and decorative items featuring the skins of dead things. Wolves are most often furniture. Wolf pelts as decorative throws are common enough not to warrant notice anymore. Bear skins on the wall and floor are in about every other home in Alaska. The funniest by far are the plexiglass scenes under the fauxoak coffee table. You can stick anything in your own, personal natural history museum in the rumpus room. I have seen fish, quail, muskrats, and snakes. The taxidermist is an artist and likes to include various twigs and berries to complete the life-like scene.

Anyway, taxidermy is inherently funny. It's doubly funny to me since I found out how much it costs. (It is incredibly expensive.)

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I got kind of used to antlers (+) on the wall when living in Michigan and visiting friends who hunt. Whenever they made me go with them, I was silently rooting for the deer to escape. Silently so as not to tick off the person holding the rifle.

    I guess you get used to it, and every region has its own decorating style. Like peach and teal all over the Southwest.