Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

House of Beasts at Attingham Park, Atcham, Shrewsbury, UK

by Suzanne on August 1st, 2011

1 - Evacuate by Kate MccGwire, bird feathers coming out of pot - click to enlarge

When news reached me a month ago that Meadow Arts were curating a year-long site-specific group show of taxidermy, sculpture and installation art entitled House of Beasts at the breathtaking Attingham Park in Shrewsbury (Charles Darwin's birthplace - how perfect!), I knew that there was still hope that the Elder Gods can indeed hear our prayers and pleas for great art exhibitions in the UK and do receive our sacrifices.

2 - Foreground: Untitled (Sphere) by Alastair Mackie, mouse skulls, wood, glass, courtesy the artist and All Visual Arts / Background: Herd by Susie MacMurray, cut antlers, silk velvet, Meadow Arts Commission 2011 - click to enlarge

House of Beasts is way more than land-art meets Wunderkammer though - Meadow Arts have managed to create a surreal fictional space where taxidermy becomes alive and sculpture becomes organic.

3 - Refuge by Nina Saunders, taxidermy fox, upholstered armchair, courtesy David Roberts Collection - click to enlarge - click here for detail

Where Nina Saunders' little fox (picture 3) just stretched its paws and yawned, where Tessa Farmer's insect warriors battle fearlessly with their porcupine spine spears, where Daphne Wright's swan (picture 7) is drying its feathers after an invigorating swim in the River Tern, where Polly Morgan's magpie (picture 5) just picked up the phone, where Kate MccGwire's leech-like feather blob (picture 1) is spooking and creeping around the house like it's trapped in some Edward Gorey book or Ray Caesar artwork.

4 - Chandelier (Katy’s Convoy) by Nina Saunders, chandelier with taxidermy birds, courtesy the artist - click to enlarge

I've had a long love and passion for artists combining bone and filigree with taxidermy, so I immediately knew this would work perfectly at an old manor house like Attingham Park but when I saw the line-up of artists, I did need to reach for the smelling salts, it is that amazing.

5 - One for Sorrow by Polly Morgan, bakelite telephone and taxidermy magpie, courtesy the artist - click to enlarge

Featured artists include:

*INHALES* Ruth Claxton, Mat Collishaw, Tessa Farmer, Rachel Goodyear, Kathleen Herbert, Alastair Mackie, Susie MacMurray, Kate MccGwire, Polly Morgan, Nina Saunders, Anj Smith, Daphne Wright *EXHALES*.

6 - The Beast in Me by Mat Collishaw, digital photograph, courtesy Anne Faggionato - click to enlarge

Yeah, I know, right? A plethora of reasons to drag yourself to Shropshire before mid-July 2012. Details below.

Many thanks to Anne de Charmant, director of Meadow Arts for the in-situ image material.

7 - Swan by Daphne Wright, cast marble dust, Meadow Arts Commission 2007 - click to enlarge

On show: Jul 2, 2011 - Jul 15, 2012

Address: House of Beasts at Attingham Park, Atcham, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4TP, tel: 01743 708123 (INFOLINE), email: attingham@nationaltrust.org.uk | Exhibition map

Press release | Exhibition map

WurzelForum discussion

Polly Morgan at Workshop Arte Contemporanea, Venice, Italy

by Suzanne on June 5th, 2011

Systemic Inflammation by Polly Morgan, taxidermy canaries, steel, leather, 2010 - click to enlarge

In the past year or so, Polly Morgan has shown a great degree of innovation and adaptation in a genre that doesn't always bring out the best in people (and animals!), see Etsy and eBay.

Despite my criticism of her work in earlier years, I have to admit there are only a few taxidermy artists who have managed to successfully and aesthetically merge the sculptural (Black/Blue Fever, below) with the decorative (Systemic Inflammation, top, and Departures) with the humorous (Receiver), with the bittersweet (To Every Seed, bottom, and Vestige) with the... uhmm... well... stuffed.

Black Fever (left) and Blue Fever (right) by Polly Morgan, taxidermy crow/pigeon wings, wood, wire, 2010 - click to enlarge

Maybe releasing editioned Still Birth taxidermy sculptures was not the brightest thing to do and will definitely infuriate many, but all I can say is that I've been following her work over the years and went to many of her exhibitions and she really did learn how to enchant, amaze and startle (admittedly without reinventing the wheel) and I have hardly seen works of a more olfactory pleasing manner. Seriously.

Her Psychopomps show at Haunch of Venison made that clear even to the haters, I believe.

Besides, her etching of Blue Fever is just glorious and for an edition of 50 actually cheaper than lots of shit street art prints in this city. Just sayin'.

So maybe I'm getting mellow, but I'm putting the hate aside for once.

Just for once.

To Every Seed His Own Body (right) by Polly Morgan, 2006 - click to enlarge

AAAAANYWAAAAAYS, Polly is currently showing new works at Workshop in Venice, Italy - not really at the Biennale, but I guess the timing is pretty obvious. All details below.

On show: Jun 3 - Jul 22, 2011

Address: Workshop Arte Contemporanea, Dorsoduro, 2793/A, 30123 Venice, Italy, tel: +39 041 099 0156, email: info@workshopvenice.com | Map

Press release

Artist's website

Polly Morgan's monograph

by suzanne_tumblr on August 29th, 2010

Also currently on view at Haunch is Polly Morgan’s Psychopomps room installation. Totally worth seeing for olfactory reasons even if you’re already familiar/bored with her oeuvre. 

"Animal Magic" at Eleven Fine Art, London: Final Days

by Suzanne on May 21st, 2008

Snake-Tailed Skull Ship (detail) by Tessa Farmer | Photo by Suzanne G.

Final week for Londoners to see Animal Magic at Eleven Fine Art in London.

I visited the tiny show myself about a fortnight ago, and the one work that stood out for me was definitely Tessa Farmer's Snake-Tailed Skull Ship (c.f. above).

I don't know whether it was the hot weather or the fact that I visited the enchanting and highly recommendable Amazing Rare Things exhibition before, but Olly & Suzi's paintings left me rather indifferent and despite the fact that I always liked Polly Morgan's taxidermied animals from looking at her photographs, standing face to face with them didn't really impress or inspire me.

However, apart from two rather cringeworthy conservatory faux pas (Farmer's highly fragile mobile-like oeuvre hanging very close to the window front where it's exposed to sunlight and draft whenever someone enters the room and Morgan's dead bird arrangement standing on a wonky pedestal that makes the glass dome and the electrified miniature chandelier tremble with every step) the show is quite nicely arranged and very well documented.

Closes: Saturday, May 24, 2008

Address: Eleven Fine Art, 11 Eccleston Street, London, SW1W 9LX, tel: +44 (0)20 7823 5540 | Map

Preview works

Oh, and guess who's gonna see Indy tonight at midnight?! *cracks whip*

Taxidermia Wurzeltodensis

by Suzanne on August 6th, 2007

Hopeless Romantic by Colette Calascione, oil on wood, 10" x 15", 1996

'Story has it, a boy came face-to-face with that animal.... right here. Right where we’re standing now.

Over the years it carried on like this - thieving different parts of people like it wanted to be a person.

Until it looked just like you or me, on the outside. But the only human part it never got was the ---'

(From: The Cat With Hands by Robert Morgan)

Without further ado, here it finally is: The often-promised and long-awaited Taxidermy, Cryptozoology & Animal Curiosa Ãœberpost - dedicated to a very precious and talented friend of mine: The lovely Jessica Joslin. Thank you for creating an outstanding oeuvre that keeps inspiring us!

If you're a taxidermist, cryptozoologist or curiosa photographer/multimedia artist, please feel free to leave a comment so that I can complete this comprehensive taxidermy link collection (and seize world dominance). Thank you.

P.S: Don't miss this nifty slideshow with all the artworks featured below. Enjoy!

Phew. My work here is done. I guess I can could retire from blogging now...

This article has been listed on:

Tia Resleure's A Case of Curiosities

Adam Szrotek

Alex CF

Animal Furniture Part 1 | Part 2

Børre Sæthre (via Fluffy Lychees)

Cai Guo-Qiang (II - via WMMNA)

Carlee Fernandez (via Michelle - where on earth are you, girl? I miss you...)

Athanasius Kircher's Cat Piano (via Robotbrain)

Christiane Cegavske

Christopher Linney Taxidermy

Courtney Payne (via and hosted by Carlee Fernandez)

Damien Hirst (II)

Erick Swenson (via WMMNA)

Fiendish Curiosities

Finch & C° (via Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society)

Geof Kern

Gordon Rutter's collection

Gordon Wilding

Hardy Burmeier (via Tinselman)

Hyungkoo Lee

Jane Alexander

Jeff de Boer (via ExquisiteCorpse)

Jessica Joslin

John Espinosa (via Bunnylicious)

Josh Keyes

Karen Knorr (via Hysteria)

Les Deux Garcons (via Phantasmaphile)

Lola Isern (via and hosted by Carlee Fernandez)

LSD Photographers

Margot Quan Knight

Mark Holthusen

Maurizio Cattelan

Michael Sans (via DesignBoom)

Mike Libby (via Meredith Yayanos)

Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists

Musée Bizarre

Musée des Grenouilles

Hajime Emoto's Museum of Fantastic Specimens (II)

Museum Stemmler

Nathalia Edenmont

Nazif Topçuoğlu

Obscura Antiques (II)

One Dead Canary

Pascal Bernier (via WMMNA)

Patricia Piccinini

Ron Pippin

Bill Burns' Safety Gear For Small Animals (via WMMNA)

Sandy Skoglund (via Armchair Aquarium)

Sara Lando

Sarina Brewer

Scott a. a. Bibus

Scott Musgrove

Shen Shaomin

Simen Johan (via Lost At E Minor)

György Pálfi's Taxidermia (via my brother. Thanks for the DVD!)

Tessa Farmer (via Spy's Spice)

This Must Be Designed By Idiots

Trish Carney

Walter Potter's Museum of Curiosities (hosted by A Case of Curiosities)

Wim Delvoye


Angela Singer (via Jeanie)

The Guardian: Back from the dead

Bryan Crockett

Martin Schwarz's Bürstentierchen

Jon Gipe's Cabinet of Curiosities (via BoingBoing)

Wurzeltod's Cabinets de Curiosités

Catherine Chalmers

David Altmejd

Eugene Parnell

David McKinley's Heads & Tails Taxidermy

Heidi Taillefer

Ione Rucquoi (via Nikki Magennis)

Jennifer Angus

Joss McKinley

Julia deVille

Laurie Hogin

McKinley and Son

Curious Expedition's Monstrorium Historia (.. and photo set)

Morbid Tendencies

Jeanie M.'s Mouse Angel

Takeshi Yamada's Museum of World Wonders


Nicole McConville

Polly Morgan (via Melanie Haarhaus)

Tara Tucker