Vegan Taxidermy: An Intersection of Art, Science, and Conservation
by Carly Peltier on June 24, 2011
Artist Amiee Baldwin with several of her sculptures, which she calls vegan taxidermy.
Photo by Tue Nam Ton, tntpictures.com.
These days, taxidermy and conservation might seem to run at cross purposes, outside the dim halls of natural history museums. Those dioramas—and lots of our knowledge of species all over the world—come from a time when field science was rather more dangerous to wildlife than it is today.
- American avocet. Photo by Tue Nam Ton, tntpictures.com.
Artist Aimee Baldwin’s unusual sculptures, which she calls vegan taxidermy, remove the inconvenient contradiction between loving nature and stuffing it. Through July 15, her work is on display at the upstairs gallery of Castle in the Air, a shop on Berkeley’s Fourth Street.
By constructing strikingly realistic paper representations of both common and extinct birds, along with paper plants in the fashion of preserved museum specimens, Baldwin unites art, science, and conservation. Her sculptures include common species such as a burrowing owl and night heron, as well as extinct (or presumed extinct) birds, including a passenger pigeon and ivory-billed woodpecker.
“I hope my art will inspire people to appreciate the nature surrounding them, so they’ll respect our environment and hopefully care about each other and value human creativity,” says Baldwin.
It takes Baldwin about a week to make a bird, and prices range from $400 to $3,000 each.
- Parakeet sculpture in process. Photo by Tue Nam Ton, tntpictures.com.
Baldwin says she especially enjoys the research for these pieces: “I really like the aspect of my work that gets me out on hikes to observe the details of my own backyard nature. It’s great that I can go on local nature excursions without the feeling guilty that I am not working, because I’m actually doing research for my artwork.”
She’s been making and showing off these birds since 2006. She uses photos to study the appearance of each species, but she says watching living and moving birds makes it a lot easier to get their body language right.
“I wanted to make something that didn’t use a lot of resources but the focus is more on my time spent making each piece, each is one of a kind. I hope my attention to detail will grab the audience—respect for nature and how delicate it is, and creativity and appreciate the amount of time that it took me to create something interesting to look at.”