These Women Claim To Take An “Ethical” Approach To Taxidermy

RealClear Staff

            

     Taxidermy, an odd-but-intriguing-to-some art form, is being revisited (or rebranded) by lifeless-animal-enthusiasts Divya Anantharaman and Katie Innamorato.

[Part of the Divya Anantharam portfolio | Source: d-i-v-y-a.com]

They call their approach “ethical taxidermy.” Unlike the Victorian Era, when one wouldn’t think twice about tearing an animal apart for aesthetic reasons, these two are all about implementing humane aspects into the art form. Basically, they claim to not kill their carcasses and use every bit of the bodies in their method(s).

Anantharaman’s stance is taxidermy’s soured stigma is underserved and misunderstood. “Ethics are individual, and I have yet to meet a taxidermist [who] enjoys cruelty or harming animals. Today taxidermists rarely advocate for killing something for the sole sake of art. For those [who] do, all I can say is live and let live,” Anantharaman said in an interview. “Personally, I prefer working with animals that died of unavoidable circumstances like old age or untreatable illness. Thoughtful sourcing is the opposite of cruel.”

[Divya Anantharaman | Photo: Anthony Humphreys]

The two are part a movement called “rogue taxidermy,” which is apparently spreading like wildfire. To boot, both ladies burgeoned a book, Stuffed Animals, entailing the methods, science and beauty behind the thought-to-be-brutish craft. There’s even a recipe section in the back (for those who wish to use the animal the way nature intended). 

[Katie Innamorato | Photo: Dawn Whitmore]

More, unlike traditional taxidermy, this contemporary form of posing would-be catatonic creatures gravitates toward the conceptual art of it all. Today’s taxidermists fashion together anything from a foxelope to a quasi-winged squirrel. However abnormal this dead-animal obsession may seem, these rogues are seemingly fascinated by its fantastical feasibility.

[Foxelope by Katie Innamorato | Source: AfterlifeAnatomy.com]

[Winged Squirrel by Katie Innamorato | Source: AfterlifeAnatomy.com]

Anantharaman’s augmented-animal fetish first began with an interest in her parents’ biology books—splashed with her flair for fashion and art. This hobby has taken her to full-time taxidermy, as eight years of effort have paid off. Among her array of gigs, Divya makes a living at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum. Apparently, her classes are highly coveted—they often sell out—as she rarely recognizes any of her apprentices.

While she has achieved instructor status, according to Anantharaman, it’s a “constant-learning process,” but she takes advantage of the taxidermy community in her ongoing pursuit to master this “creative” craft.

“When I first wanted to learn, after reading all the books and manuals I could get my paws on, I came across Amy Ritchie’s blog and Jean Roll’s videos. I fell in love with their work, but at that time, I wanted to make stuff that was a little ‘weirder’,” she said.

Anantharaman finds her work to be fulfilling and challenging in terms of turning people from the aversions associated with animal-afterlife anatomy.

“There’s a great community that comes together around these classes,” she said. “Instead of the stereotype of being dark, doom ’n’ gloom, it is a very diverse community of people united over a love of wildlife, lost or dying art forms and a new generation of conservationists. Sure, some of us enjoy black lipstick and winged eyeliner, but that really isn’t the focus—it’s a love of animals and all the different reasons one wants to preserve them.”

[Taxidermy sparrow-scented hoop earrings for $175 by Divya Anantharaman | Source: D-i-v-y-a.com]

Anantharaman feels her craft’s reconnecting urban communities with nature—not that there aren’t forests and parks aplenty if one were inclined to traverse outside a big city. Additionally, she celebrates the tangibility of her trophies (“taxidermy can’t be digitized”).

Because of rogue-wildlife warriors like Anantharaman and Innamorato, this subversive skill is making its way to the mainstream. And if you’re a croaked-critter collector, feel free to browse both their websites.

[Video: courtesy of Dawn Whitmore]

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