Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some People Really CAN'T tell the Difference Pt. 3

Well, this post is certainly long overdue! I started writing Pt. 3 at the end of May (2009!) and then got busy with other things. And then I just dropped the ball... several times... so some of the following is no longer true:  Like my backyard is no longer in my hometown of San Francisco and I have no idea if Dark Garden still carries the merchandise in question.

Here is what I found out: The company selling taxidermy jewelry at Dark Garden has a website and is all over the Internet on MySpace, Etsy, Facebook, twitter, eBay, etc. (and now has a physical "shoppe" in my own backyard.) The quality of the taxidermy and metal work is dependent on who actually did the work. It certainly wasn't them. Nothing that I could find there was especially unique, or inspired.

(Perhaps coincidentally, this company was started shortly after I showed the direction my taxidermy going with jewelry to a groovy new store that was opening but who never called me back. The shop opened and ended up stocking this cheaper, and what I feel is derivative, work and mind you:  they sought me out.) 

Some of what I discovered was truly appalling. Dressed up mice that are a total rip-off of Jeanie M's work. Human figures with animal heads, a little too reminiscent of my work for my taste (But only if my work had collided with Mattel's Barbie, and a lot of hot glue):
Queen of Hearts Barbie
(Oh - no - she - did - NOT!)
Evening Majesty Barbie
(Oh yes she DID!)

Painstakingly researched and prepared images swiped from my website decorating their MySpace page listed under "Who I would like to meet" but linking these images back to their commercial site instead of the source of the images:
(FYI, their My Space page was made private shortly after I started this blog)

Even more pilfered images filling their MySpace image folder of Victorian Taxidermy:
Every one of these images was taken from my website.  I love it that that they couldn't even bother to remove some of my pale yellow backgrounds!

I found this quote in one of their online bios: "We seek out obscure and unique materials to create Loved To Death items."  Hummm:
Pigeon heads available here.

 I guess this kind of knocks down the "obscure and unique  materials" theory. It also begs the question of the technical accuracy of the oft repeated blanket statement that "no animals have ever been killed for use in our work".  I think they left off the salient bit about "by us". (Weenie Apologists in my book, but that's the subject of a future post.)  

This quote from an interview that was done after I started blogging on this subject: "What is the best piece of advice you can give other artists?" "Copyright your work! Also strive to be original. It is one thing to be inspired by someone else's work, and another to take someone else's idea and knock it off. Only a true artist knows the difference."

Gosh, do you think they saw me coming?

I find the commercial aspects of their website extremely distasteful: Links between their merch are labeled 'previous product' and 'next product' and everything has an 'add to cart' button and a 'quantity' button. Did they really have to trademark their common phrase business name?  It's all just so patently phony and Marketing 101 and yet they constantly refer to themselves as "artists". 

Working with taxidermy has become very trendy and hip over that last six years or so and some of the work currently being produced is original and absolutely fabulous. Unfortunately, too many are just jumping on the bandwagon and only re-digesting work that we've already seen. Even more unfortunate is that most people DON'T know the difference and actually believe that these folks are doing something original or even well crafted. I suppose it's a testament to their vigorous and aggressive Internet marketing techniques (and lack of moral integrity).

You could say that all is fair in a capitalist society but I'm amazed by the shamelessness of those who claim Victorian influences like Potter and Ploucquet but patently avoid giving proper credit to obvious contemporary influences and have the nerve to make arrogant statements such as "Much like the Victorians before us..." Especially when they give the outward impression of being ├╝ber-hip/counter-culture/goth-ier than thou/anti-establishment types. But I suppose one shouldn't be surprised by this kind of behaviour coming from anyone who feels (repeatedly) compelled to combine words to create phrases like "genuine taxidermy". On second thought, it would probably be far more devastating if they did refer to you as an 'influence'!

Clearly, few people think twice about sucking concepts and stealing images and research from the Internet without credit. (It's especially amusing when they swipe research details but still can't get their historic facts straight. Do I hear a flurry of desperate scrambling?)  Equally annoying are those who embellish/manufacture their credentials and pad their dates to pass themselves off as somehow more legitimate.

I ask myself, "Now, why can't you just be nice?" and "what's the point of all this cranky, whiny ranting?" Is it just envy over their apparent success? One thing I know for certain: I am loath to share images of my new work lest it be considered fair game for being "drawn" from the same "resource pool". I think the only way to avoid being sucked and buried is to first exhaust all concept variations (how long would that take and is it even possible?) and then to hire a high-end PR firm for representation. I'm truly at a loss and miss discussing my work with other artists. These days one can't even casually mention a specific material on a blog without it becoming instant Crafty Fodder.

Hey, I had the opportunity to get greater exposure (and potential financial success) with a group show at a gallery that I thought I would do anything to get into. Unfortunately, inclusion had nothing to do with the quality or medium of work and everything to do with accepting a (secretly free) membership to a new group that i didn't feel I belonged with.  My work was wanted if I appeared to be a paying joiner but not enough if it meant being given an honorary membership, which are apparently reserved for less threatening? influences.  Point being (and whining aside), I have no problem accepting responsibility for the choices I have made.

As far as I'm concerned, Jeanie M is the mouse girl and Mark Frierson was the resurrectionist who brought back gaffed two-headed chicks and ducklings. Sure, dressing animals as humans and creating gaff freaks has been done before but why would you want to just copy others and go into mass production instead of putting your own personal (and significant) spin on it? (oh yeah, to make money, duh)


  1. Firstly, I'd like to introduce myself to your readers who don't know who I am; I'm a fine artist who also works with taxidermy related materials. I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1992 and have been creating art objects with animal materials for over 20 years. I began actively selling my art work in 1997 and in 1999 began to offer it on the web. I'm also one of the co-founders of The Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists (MART)

    Indeed the interest in taxidermy related art has enjoyed a resurgence in the last 6 years as you noted, not so coincidentally coinciding with the inaugural Rogue Taxidermy exhibition in 2004 put together by Scott Bibus, Robert Marbury and myself. We are far from the first artists to work with taxidermy related materials, but we were the first to categorize it. It wasn't "Rogue Taxidermy" until we coined the phrase. The show received such immense positive response from other artists that it quickly became apparent we needed to form a cooperative for artists who shared our passion. Hence, the birth of MART. A firestorm of interest in this type of work has since ensued and we found ourselves spearheading a Rogue Taxidermy movement as hundreds of other artists working in this realm came forward. Because of our efforts this variety of work is now recognized as its own genre in the mainstream art word, even gaining enough attention to warrant an article on the front page of the New York Times art section.

    Tia, MART has made every effort to connect with you because we really like your work. We invited you to climb aboard at the group's inception but you declined. There is no reason for sour grapes when we have continued to leave our door open for you. Despite the fact you freely insult MART and its members in public forums, at the beginning of the year we decided to make a last ditch effort to build a relationship with you. We once again invited you to join the group and to participate in our group show at La Luz De Jesus that you reference, but you declined and continue to look down your nose at MART. Now we're learning you refused to join because we wouldn't give you preferential treatment with "honorary member" status. Honorary membership is reserved for artists whose work has influenced the founding members. Scott, Robert, and myself all agree you do great work, but your work was not influential in our art careers. It appears you think everyone who works in a similar vein was influenced by your work. I'm sorry to burst your bubble but that's not the case. People have been creating art from animal materials for centuries and there's endless inspirational material out there other than yours. It's extremely arrogant for any artist to think they have come up with something so original that no one else could possibly come up with the same concept on their own. I'm sure there have been some artists who have taken inspiration from your work over the course of your career, and there are only more to come. You were inspired by the taxidermists of yesteryear, so I'm not quite sure why you think emerging artists have no right to be inspired by existing work like yours. You act as if anyone working within this genre is invading your turf. I'm also not sure why you continue to feel so threatened by other artists when you create beautiful work. Your elitist attitude, blatant territoriality, and unprovoked venomous remarks are uncalled-for, unprofessional, and quite frankly I'm embarrassed for you. Rest assured, you don't need to worry about MART reaching out to you again.

    I hope you have the integrity not to delete this post so those you have attacked, either directly or indirectly, have the opportunity to defend themselves.

    Sarina Brewer
    Custom Creature Taxidermy Arts

    PS: regarding people pilfering images off your page - please remove the photo of the pigeon heads from my Etsy page unless you provide a courtesy link back to the source. Thank you

  2. Oh bugger! I accidently deleted all of the commentary. Here is what I was able to salvage from my email box:

    Posted by Anonymous December 16, 2010 3:09 PM
    I wholeheartedly agree with you. The whole taxidermy trend wagon is particularly disgusting for me, who've been collecting pieces off and on now for over 20 years.

    Posted by crowbiddy December 16, 2010 3:46 PM
    happy you're back, loved your rant.
    bev e in Canada

    Posted by Tecu'Mish December 16, 2010 7:22 PM
    You are not whining and thanks to your work and that of the other true artists, people like me can see their overpriced, cheap knock offs for what they are.

    Posted by Anonymous December 16, 2010 10:07 PM
    you are such s complete lunatic and hater. thee are so many people in this genre, You are transparent in your HATE and JEALOUSY.

    Posted by Anonymous December 16, 2010 11:18 PM
    Hahahahahahaha you are a pretentious idiot and really come across as a jealous piece of shit. What's hilarious about your blog post is you claiming this loved to death stole some image off your site that's a walter potter picture that you yanked off some site. Get a fucking life idiot your viewed as a joke amongst collectors of taxidermy and you should just stick with getting public assistance checks for your mental health rather than write a blog bashing artists like sarina brewer and the rogue taxidermy group.

    Posted by Anonymous December 16, 2010 11:21 PM
    Can't post comments without approval? What are you scared of idiot?

    Posted by Anonymous December 19, 2010 10:54 AM
    the time it took you to write this post just proves my theory that you may just be a vain, selfish artist, rather than a respectable one. thanks, now i know for sure. Have a great day, but I know you won't. :)

    Posted by Anonymous December 19, 2010 10:55 AM
    oh and I left out the fact the you are very insecure and a sorry excuse for a person AND artist. this must kill you so you try to bring others down. really sad for you, you should get the mental help you need.

    Posted by T. December 24, 2010 9:07 AM
    Sorry it took so long to post these comments, I had completely forgotten that I had turned on comment moderation.

    FYI to the cranky anonymous commentator:
    Regarding the images that LTD posted on their Myspace pages: The two images of Walter Potter's Work (Upper 10 and Lower 5) were actually first introduced to the internet by me for the purpose of bringing positive attention to Potter. The smoking rabbit is in a friend's private collection and used on my site with permission. The dueling frogs is in my own private collection. The boxing squirrels image was sent to me by the conservator of the estate that owns it. The baby rabbits is in a museum and I got permission from the curator. I found the rat's in the pub (with the faux bois wallpaper) in a paper auction catalog and my comment was that I felt it was erroneously attributed to Potter. The image of the owl digging the grave for Cock Robin was scanned by me from a 1940's book I own.

    My full commentary on "Rogue" taxidermy can be found here: While I confess that I question the concept/purpose of the creation of groups like this, I do admire the work of many of the individual members.

    Basically, I think you've lost the plot. My posts weren't intended as a bashing but as critique. When I first starting looking into who these people were I was surprised by just how MANY worms were in the can.

    I will add this one: Long before they opened their SF "shoppe" their bios always said they lived in San Francisco. They were actually living in Alameda. Apparently every little detail is a construction for their BS=back story. Such boundless ambition never ceases to amaze me.

  3. "Posted by Anonymous December 16, 2010 10:07 PM
    you are such s complete lunatic and hater. thee are so many people in this genre, You are transparent in your HATE and JEALOUSY."

    Hahaha, what a nutjob.