Taxidermy: Polly Morgan

1 Jul

To start off our blog’s October theme of Taxidermy we will be looking at the work of Polly Morgan, a British artist whose oeuvre has always utilized taxidermy in some form or another. Like all modern taxidermy artists the animals that Morgan uses in her work have died of natural causes or had an accidental death and have usually been donated to her to use. No animal is killed for the purpose of taxidermy and none of the items we will feature this month have either, they have simply been given a chance to live on for longer in the form of art after their death.

Firstly we will look at Morgan’s work which uses magpies, a symbol of superstition in many cultures.

“Someone On The Phone” Mounted magpie on a Bakerlite telephone

I am interested in the moment between something dying and decaying – anything between a few hours and a week. There’s something beautiful about that. The wings aren’t used for flying, the eyes aren’t used for seeing, the beak isn’t used for pecking… it just becomes an ornament. When it’s taken out of context, people can see that it’s beautiful. They can appreciate it for what it is.” – Polly Morgan

When the magpie is used alongside the telephone, it too, with its old fashioned dialing wheel and reciever, becomes an ornament of aesthetic beauty. We know we can no longer use the telephone as it is from the past. This mirrors the bird as it too is from the past as it has deceased. The pairing of the phone and the bird makes a rather beautiful melancholy.

Here is another of her works using the theme of the magpie and the telephone as ornament. ‘Dead Ringer’ reminds us of Salvador Dali’s Lobster Phone, a surrealist object and sculpture.

“Dead Ringer” Mounted magpie and Bakerlite telephone

Another haunting piece by Morgan is “Black fever” which uses the black wings of crows in an installation that makes one think of an explosion suspended in both time and space.

“Black Fever” Taxidermy Crow Wings, wood and wire.

LAP students, why not draw inspiration from Morgan’s work and find the ornament or object in a living thing. How does something which was once alive that now takes on the appearence of living become something else entirely through stillness and positioning?

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