I just ran across a business card for a shop I went into in San Francisco and had meant to tell you guys about but then forgot. It was called Loved to Death, and if you get a chance, you should go. Just because.
I’ve never seen another shop like it. It appeared to sell a mixture of antiques, silver jewelry, vintagey goth clothes, I think there may have been some skulls and… what was that other thing? Oh yeah, TAXIDERMIED RODENTS.
If I recall correctly, the foyer had a chandelier with squirrels on it. Real, dead squirrels. With glass eyes. It was creepy as all hell, but fascinating at the same time. The friend I was with didn’t actually want to go into this store, but I was compelled not only to go in, but also to carefully inspect every piece of merchandise there. Because really, how can you not in such a place?
Now, I’m going to assume that I’m not alone when I say that the only real question that taxidermy ever brings to my mind is, “Dear God, why?” (One time one of my uncles interjected a sentence with, “I had been teaching myself taxidermy at the time, so….” I don’t remember the rest of the story because I more or less fixated on that bit. My dad and his brothers grew up “in the bush” so they will sometimes come out with stuff like that. It’s weird.)
Why would anyone want to do something like that to a dead thing? I think most people would agree that it’s not the classiest design choice going, so it’s clearly not about aesthetics.
I’ve never hunted, so maybe that’s why I don’t get it. Maybe hunters naturally understand the whole taxidermy thing a bit better. Maybe if, hypothetically, I were to kill a bear, I would want — for vague reasons of ego or similar — to stuff it and give it some prime floor space in my 700 square foot urban apartment. (I’m sure this would be great for dinner party conversations.) In this way, I could keep forever the evidence of how awesome a killer I was. Probably I’ll never know if that’s what I’d do, because — let’s face it — I’m not going to kill a bear. For one thing, I don’t like guns. For another, I don’t really like the woods up close. For a third, I don’t kill things. (Besides smallish bugs if I have large enough bludgeoning implements.) (I don’t play fair when it comes to bug warfare. It’s a character flaw I’ve learned to live with.)
I’m assuming, however, that if you were a hunter of squirrels, then taxidermying them wouldn’t really show you as an alpha in front of all your friends. So I’m pretty sure that while taxidermying a bear makes it a trophy, taxidermying a rodent has some other, some might say higher, purpose. And I think that purpose might be Art. I think I might have even seen a taxidermied mountain goat at a Rauschenberg exhibit once. I tell you, weird stuff gets done in the name of Art. Here’s a lesson for you folks, and this is coming from someone who studied art history for two years in university: not all art is good. I know, shocking. But there you have it.
Ok, I have no graceful way to end this one, so I’m just going to stop here because this post is already pretty odd. However, if you have any experiences with, or just thoughts on the whys and wherefores of taxidermy, I would be fascinated to hear them, so tell me in the comments.