Taxidermy in Modern Society

In the 1970s taxidermy was floundering because of ecological awareness. Taxidermy posts, workshops, and displays were shut down” (Milgrom). With modern social movements such as PETA and the Body World exhibit, people began to question whether taxidermy was humane or not. Melissa Milgrom descirbes in her book Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy a time when “taxidermy was in one of it reviled phases, the height of the antifur campaigns of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Lynx Educational Trust for animal Welfare. Advertisements showed beautiful women with flayed dogs draped around their shoulders. People paint-bombed fur coats”. For many, it became impossible to differentiate between taxidermy and animal abuse, while or others taxidermy is the greatest love possible for animals.

One example of such outcry is over the issue of taxidermied polar bears. “Just as canaries were once used to detect toxic gases in coal mines, the changing lives of polar bears now serve as an early warning of global climate change” (New Scientist). Because of this important and unfortunate role that polat bears are playing in modern culture, many people feel guilty about their situation. For this reason, polar bear displays are dying out.”Many museums, eager to snag the ‘iCarly’ demographic, are ditching their taxidermy collections in favor of Imax movies and robotic beasties. A lot of dusty, moth-eaten stuffed animals have piled up in a lot of half-forgotten museum closets” (Garner). Specifically, a polar bear, Knut, who died in 2011, sparked a controversy over whether it was proper to have him mounted or not. “When someone dies”, critic Jochen Kolbe argues, “I think that you don’t want him stuffed in a museum. Knut is not only a polar bear for people. He is a friend, a family member” (Slackman). Due to the intense connection that many share with animals, they tend to feel uncomfortable with these permanent displays. In this situation, over 100 protestors publically went to the zoo, and even more joined the Facebook page. This entire case may be argued against, however, with the tradition of human preservation. “One preserved human, Ms. Milgrom writes, is the British economist and philosopher eremy Bentham (1884-1932), whose body is seated in a chair in a glass case at University College London. His head is now a wax reproduction. ‘His real head is taken out only for ceremonial dinners,’ she writes, ‘to satisfy the clause in the economist’s will requiting his presence at such events” (Garner). With human preservation dating back to the ancient Egyptians, people continue to struggle with the idea of the humanity of taxidermy, and thus its popularity fluxeuates.

The media has grabbed onto this controversy and poked fun at all aspects of it through newspapers and television. The harsh turmoil over it has (whether intentionally or not) renewed and interest in taxidermy. Due to these events, taxidermists all around the world formed the World Taxidermy Championships – a guild. These people who loved their art saw it floundering and decided that they needed to act in order to save it. Because of this action, taxidermy has regained its position in society.

Today, taxidermy is experiencing one of its biggest revivals of all time. Over seven million people visit the National Museum of Natural History each year (a more than $31 million industry). In this way, people still want to see taxidermy and it is still a valid and vital medium for education. Even though it is often thought of as mysterious and unknown, taxidermy is a “thriving subculture” with over 100,000 taxidermists (mostly commercial practitioners). They have magazines, groups, and conventions where they can gather. To the modern game and scientific taxidermist, anatomical accuracy is most important. To accomplish this, taxidermists much be shrewd observers of nature in the wild. Their unofficial motto is “First comes anatomical accuracy, then art” (Garner). In contrast to these taxidermists, however, many are focusing on the art aspect. To them, anatomical accuracy may mean very little. Damien Hurst, for example, is a modern day Walter Potter, creating anthromorphic and artistic interpretations of animals.

Since its inception, taxidermy has been the source of major controversy. Due to this, it has made its way through many crests and valleys in popularity. The entire process of when “an animal starts out looking like the animal, gets mangled beyond recognition, and then ends up looking like an animal again” (Milgrom) can be gruesome for some and enchanting for others. This somewhat counter-productive process leaves us with an ever present memorial of a creature. Even though overall public opinion of taxidermy will continue to vary, one thing is certain; those truly faithful to taxidermy will forever keep the tradition alive.

-C

PS: Sorry that this is a day late!! And sorry that I cannot find the names of the sources that I cited in this…I wrote this and then could not find them =P

Pictures:

http://frontpagemag.com/2010/03/11/animal-wrongs-2/

http://atlasobscura.com/blog/atlas-obscura-visits-the-explorers-club

http://2coolfishing.com/ttmbforum/showthread.php?t=238416

http://www.whosjack.org/damien-hirst-to-open-gallery/

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Dresses of Tsarina Aleksandra Romanova

Tsarina Alexandra

I have to say, all of the images here are taken shamelessly from a Retronaut article on the same matter, but I’ve decided to share a few of my favourites along with a little history about the Tsarina’s story rather than simply exhibiting her fashionable garb. All information included here can be found on Wikipedia.

The sixth of seven children to Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, Alix Viktoria Helena Luise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine was a granddaughter of the powerful Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. She was baptised into the Lutheran faith, and while she was not destined to inherit her father’s country, she would in fact rule great expanses through marriage. In 1878, six years after her birth, diptheria struck the household and killed both Alexandra’s mother and youngest sister.

Tsarina AlexandraAlexandra was a stubborn, strong-willed girl, who rejected her first promising suitor despite familial pressure from both her immediate household, and Queen Victoria herself. However, she had already fallen in love with Nicholas II of Russia, despite the fact that King Wilhelm II of Prussia was a mutual great-great grandfather, though he was one generation back on the Russian side.

Nicholas II also faced troubles in their potential engagement, as his father, Tsar Alexander III, was strictly anti-German and was hoping for a more fruitful and powerful alliance. He attempted to make his son marry Hélène, a pretender on the throne of France, and then Margaret, sister to Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. Both women were also unwilling, and refused to give up their respective faiths to join the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Tsarina AlexandraI could include some details of Nicholas II’s reign, their coronation, his shortfalls and successes, and their popularity, but as this is going to be a long article anyway, I think I’ll skip to the bits of their rule that directly pertain to the Tsarina. For example, Rasputin. To discuss Rasputin, however, we need to delve into the Tsarina a bit further.

She gave birth to the young prince, tsarevich Alexei during the height of the Russo-Japanese war. He was born with haemophilia, a blood-clotting disease that Alexandra’s grandmother, Queen Victoria, had passed down to almost all royal families in Europe by marrying off her daughters to the male heirs. It was generally fatal at the time, and, as the heir of the Russian throne, it was pivitol that Alexei survive.

Out of desperation to heal her fragile son, Alexandra turned to religion, and then mystics, such as Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin lived a lifestyle of drunkenness and sexual promiscuity, but even police reports that Rasputin “exposed himself at a popular Moscow restaurant and bragged to the crowd that Nicholas let him top his wife whenever he wanted” would not deter Alexandra’s faith that the man could heal her son.
Tsarina Alexandra

When Alexei suffered a devastating hemorrhage in Poland, his mother and father waited by his bedside, anxiously trying to give him any aid to help his recovery. As the pain continued and their efforts failed, Alexandra asked Rasputin for help. His optimistic prayer-laden response coincided with Alexei’s recovery and cemented Alexandra’s fondness for the mystic. This gave political influence to the unstable Rasputin, and undermined the tsarina’s relationship with both her husband and her country.

After the first World War broke out, Alexandra took control of St. Petersburg as her husband went to lead the military on the fronts. She failed as a politician and increased Rasputin’s role, leading to a failing bureaucracy that was deeply unpopular. As revolution exploded, she was kept in her Palace, and then relocated with her family to Tobolsk, Siberia. There, the Kerensky government meant to keep them out of harm. The Bolsheviks later removed them to Yekaterinaburg. The communist guards called her husband Nicholas the Blood-Drinker, and her, the German bitch.

Being told that they were being led away to escape from the imprisonment, the family was led into the basement on Tuesday, 16 July 1918. There, they were told by Cheka guards that their family had tried to save them, and now they had failed, so they would be shot. Nicholas could only respond with “What?” before he was shot several times in the chest. Alexandra watched as her husband fell next to her with three fatal wounds. Her manservants were then killed, and as the revolver pointed at her, she attempted to turn away and make a cross. However, before she could finish, Peter Ermakov shot her in the head that went in just above her left ear and left just above her right ear. Ermakov then stabbed both of their dead bodies, breaking ribs and chipping Alexandra’s vertebrae. Then, the children were shot. Because of a shirt encrusted with jewels to protect him from his haemophilia, Alexei needed to be shot in the head to be successfully killed. That day, all members of the Romanov family died. The revolution had won.

-A.

Romanovs

Photos Courtesy Of:
http://www.retronaut.co/2011/10/dresses-of-tsarina-alexandra-romanova/

Regret

My post today is going to be a bit more personal than what A and I normally post, but it should be nonetheless interesting (because, let’s face it, we all enjoy glimpses into personal unrest). I’m not really sure if this is a public apology or just a venting session, but regardless, it is a sentiment of regret.

Regret is an emotion that is probably one of the most common – whether we want to admit it or not. We always wonder what we could have done differently in any situation or whether we could change some outcome. Scientifically, regret is actually linked to the orbitofrontal cortex…making it an actual physical phenomenon.

More often than not, regret will lead to guilt. This guilt can be expressed in sadness, shame, embarrassment, sorrow, and remorse.

Personal actions committed of wrongdoing render an unconditional eating of the soul. Nothing is more painful – I would rather saw off my own arm. The worst of any type of regret is when you are unsure of what you regret; knowing only that there was some wrongdoing. Another is knowing you have wronged someone, you know they know, but you both ignore it. And finally, where you both know and are open to it …probably the easiest but no less painful.

So to the people this is specifically meant for (and there are quite a few of you) know I am so sorry for how I have wronged you. All I can do is wish and pray for your forgiveness. For everyone else, take this as a lesson. Always be the best you can be so that you can live without the burden of regret and guilt.

-C

PS: On a happier note, this week A gave me a brilliant idea for a future post on hat-making! This will take me a few weeks to work on so that I can craft a few examples, but it should be pretty spectacular and I am truly looking forward to getting to share it with you all!

Credits:

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-stock-images-black-white-abstract-art-background-image12315234

http://kochis.net/wp/?tag=black-and-white

Salmon, Salmon, Salmon!

Grilled Salmon

So it’s summer and you want that great superfish, salmon, right? But you don’t just want to throw it in the oven and see what happens, or plop it on the grill. You want to emulate some great salmon that you had in a restaurant, or just find a way to reinvent salmon. I’m bringing you two great ways to have salmon, both easy summer recipes that are light and delicious.

Salmon with Basil-Lemon Marinade

Grilled Salmon

  • 4 pcs. salmon fillets or steaks (6 oz)
  • 1 large bunch basil, washed and stemmed
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon, approx. 2 tsp
  • Juice of the lemon, 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  1. Place salmon, rinsed, in large casserole dish.
  2. Marinade: combine basil, garlic, oil, rind, juice, salt and pepper, in blender. Whirl until smooth paste. Spread basil mixture. Turn salmon over to coat well. Marinate 30 mins, turn after 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare outdoor grill (heat coals), gas grill to hot or heat oven broiler. Grill salmon, basting with marinate, for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until opaque in centre. Transfer to a plate and serve!

Asparagus Salmon Risotto
Salmon and Asparagus Risotto

  • 2 tblsp. olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, fine chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste (use little salt)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Saute over low heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the rice. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth. Add 3/4 to 2 cups of the hot broth 1/2 cup at a time to the rice, stirring constantly after each addition and cooking until the broth is absorbed.
  3. Add the wine. Cook until absorbed, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in the asparagus. Add the remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition and cooking until the broth is absorbed.
  5. Stir in the salmon. Cook for 5 minutes or until the rice is tender, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

I’d like to invite all of you followers to ask questions and suggest recipes about your favourite ingredients, too!

-A.

Asparagus Salmon Risotto

Photos Courtesy of:

Sarah Amos: The Art of Space

So, I’d like to apologise right out for my inability as of late to keep up with my posts. I’m going to promise all of you loyal followers and passing stumblers that I’ll be on top of it from now on, despite my recent setbacks. But I also promised you two posts today to make up for my failure to deliver on Sunday, so I’m going to have to get started in order to keep enough inspired muses going to write two posts in one day!

Sarah Amos

You may or may not be able to appreciate the work of Sarah Amos, but it’s worth a try for everyone. Hopefully, if you’ve been reading all of my art posts lately, you’ve developed or honed a keen eye to understanding art and perceiving the nuances between something powerful and something vague. From the Philip Institute of Technology in 1987, to the Tamarind Institute in 2002, Sarah Amos has attended several programmes to develop her talent of printmaking. Now, I don’t talk about printmaking much because it’s not something that I practice, but it’s certainly an art that I can appreciate.

Sarah Amos

Sarah Amos makes prints, usually very large ones, that reflect movement and complex overlapping through printing “ghosts,” which are the remnants of past prints. You can view more of her work that what I show here through her website (http://www.sarahamosstudio.com/index.html). But let’s start talking about art, shall we? I’m going to turn to the print I’ve displayed to the right. Like the header image, it contains muted tones and black lines, along with printing ghosts. But what makes Sarah Amos’ work come to life is its kinetic appeal.

Quite frankly, it lifts you up and drags you from one corner to the next. The black loops, reminiscent of heart monitors, use detail and repetition to cloy you to the top of the page, then drop you sharply and sweep you along so that you begin to take in all of the information of the page, moving across the bottom line and up into the more subtle ghosts in the upper quadrants, with such ease and fluidity, it’s almost like visual swimming.

Sarah Amos

Here’s another. The juxtaposition of the harsh horizontal scratching to the organised, monotonous, geometric vertical drop gives this piece a feel that is distinctly like a vector. It’s mathematical, yet complicated. However, it’s not done with a compass or a computer; we can see, as on the far lower left, how there is an organic nature to even the rigidly organised. This subtle difference from true structure allows our eyes to feel more relaxed when viewing the image, and more interested in the dropping lines. We don’t just bunch them into “vertical stripes.” Suddenly, they’re sweeping lines that careen off of the upper mess, rather than a thin barcode that is simply seen as one unit.

Sarah Amos

For the last piece I look at, I’m going to choose one that’s very similar to the first etching I showed you, but didn’t get a chance to discuss. This complex, overlapping system of lines also provokes optical movement in a slightly different way than the others we’ve looked at. It seems to spiral out of the centre of the page, an illusion occurring both because of the dark, prison-stripe lines being neither parallel nor perpendicular to the sides of the page, and also to the immense amount of subtle lines in the background. These lighter lines, which we don’t immediately perceive because of their proximity in value to the base colour, twist from a slight incline in the upper left, to a sharp incline in the lower left. This, along with the organic, transforming quality of the prison-stripe lines, gives us the sense of movement that Sarah Amos so masterfully creates with such simple art.

-A.

Photos Courtesy Of: