The Back Story...
I began building my Bestiary in 1992, soon after I moved to Chicago. As I walked through the city, I would see, scattered on the sidewalks, birds who had broken their necks against the sides of skyscrapers, because they thought the mirrored glass was the sky. I couldn’t stand the thought of those beautiful creatures being stepped on, or swept up with the trash, so I began to collect them. I taught myself taxidermy and how to properly prepare bones, by experimenting with these treasures. 🏴💀🏴
From the start, I was enchanted by the combination of bone and other found objects. Particularly old and beautiful metalwork, like Victorian silver candy dishes, lobster picks, escutcheons, sconces, and chandeliers. Inspired by the beauty of skeletal architecture, my sculptures reflect both the real and the imagined animal, the living and the dead. Reliquaries, imbued with the animation of a second life. I see what I make as a way to honor the dead, and as tribute to the beauty of living creatures. If I had to describe the motivation behind my work, in just one word, it would be love. 🖤
Frequently Asked Questions
Are these real bones?
It depends on the piece. Some of the bones are real, some are not. For all protected and endangered species, I use replicas. For the sculptures that incorporate real animal bones, some of my sculptures are memorial pieces, made in honor of a beloved pet. Otherwise, I work with licensed osteological suppliers. I have a strong affinity for animals and take care to deal only with reputable companies, whose specimens are legally and ethically obtained.
What other sorts of materials do you use? How are these made?
I typically work with found objects, but most of them are modified quite a bit from their original form. Antique chandeliers are dissected and reconfigured into anatomical forms. Candy dishes are fashioned into rib-cages. Silver forks are cut, bent, and bolted back together to form articulated monkey toes. The spout of a teapot becomes a fish's tail. A skull from a cat might be altered to resemble a monkey, or a chicken might be given a new beak to resemble an exotic bird.
Where do you get your materials?
I find them everywhere! I am always searching for interesting objects at flea markets, on ebay, or at dozens of specialty hardware suppliers. I use everything from antique lamps and textiles, to unusual period cutlery, parasol parts and brass bullet casings. There isn't any single source.
How are they constructed? Are they welded or soldered?
None of my work is welded or soldered. I often integrate several different types of metal, such as brass, steel, silver and copper, so those techniques wouldn't be effective. Also, I always prefer to preserve the original patinas on antique metal. Typically I use mechanical fastenings: miniature machine bolts, universal joints, or couplings.
What size are your sculptures?
They range in size from about one inch tall, to nearly six feet high.
What is your background? Are you trained in the sciences?
My academic background is in the visual arts. Regarding the study of animal anatomy, I am purely an intrigued autodidact.
How can I find out about upcoming shows in my area?