CONFESSIONS OF AN URBAN ANIMIST
I've spent over 20 years hunting, killing and incorporating animals in my art work. Sometimes it's as simple as shooting a deer, taking the carcass to the taxidermist, laying it on the floor and telling my guy to "make it look just like that....dead." Other times it's a doe dragged from my trunk, across a length of canvas, leaving a "blood skid". It all depends on the piece. Most all taxidermists try to make a dead animal appear alive. It's high heresy to want the animal to look like what it actually is....dead. Hunters want that "live" mount on the wall. They want to look up from the TV and see that big buck staring, glassy-eyed off into space, so they can relive the moment when they loosed the arrow or pulled the trigger. I'm not one of those hunters. It's the buck hanging in the tree or piled up in the snow that does it for me. Death is an unavoidable part of the process. Why hide it?
My "guy" is Fernando Neves of Bethel, NY. He's done my mounts for over ten years. He gets it. He also raises whitetails and turkeys for sale to high fence preserves. This is livestock meant to be hunted and killed. So when I came to him with another idea for a new body of work he was receptive, if a bit cautious. My idea was to purchase a couple of deer and release them in the tamed urban environment- parks. NYC's Central Park already contained many "weedy" species like raccoons, skunks, 'possums, and even coyotes. Why not help the eco-system along with a few more? A week before doing my SFAI lecture a couple of deer, released into the Presidio, got onto the Golden Bridge. Thankfully no motorist nor deer were injured. This is an example of what can go wrong doing this sort of work.
An old idea I had for Central Park was releasing a breeding pair of wild turkeys, I would call Adam and Eve. Central Park is gigantic. My feeling was that if a hen and tom established residence and were lucky enough to have a surviving clutch, a population could flourish. Wouldn't it be nice to open your window at the Dakota in the Spring and hear turkeys gobbling? Neves listened and frowned. The DEC so closely regulated his "cervid" business, it would be impossible for him to help me with my task. I was on my own. Next step: google "cannon nets".
It's not easy to do any work in urban areas (outside of galleries) without breaking laws or being captured on camera. But it's not impossible. Obviously I can not mention specific acts or techniques I use in realizing these pieces. But I can say no animal was harmed in the process. My net is loaded. Time to hit the stand.