As a child, the vegan taxidermist Nicola Jayne Hebson wandered the Blackburn, England countryside, the sight of dead animals haunting her memory long after she returned home. The indignity of remains left to rot struck a chord in her, and she finally took a pair of mating, deceased frogs home, gently placing them in a frame, forever bound mid-coitus.
The artist, now 23, taught herself taxidermy, using only roadkill and deceased pets. The decision to use any living or once-living creature for the sake of art raises ethical questions, but Hebson hopes that debate over her work will inspire viewers to consider the ethics of the meat industry.
Ultimately, Hebson’s work reads as an emphatic attempt to reanimate a being that no longer exists, and it that sense it does—perhaps unfairly— claim nonhuman remains as an expression of the inherently human will to be remembered after death. But in this case, the work itself is so painstakingly delicate that it feels surprisingly generous; her careful craft isn’t a boastful display of her own ability; instead, it recalls ancient mummifications or ritualistic burial practices.
Her creations exude a life-like pathos uncommon in taxidermy in part because of her paradoxical choice to rely upon fantasy over strict realism, appealing to a more emotionally heightened realm of poetry and make-believe. One rat appears to lay a loved one to rest, and the viewer is seduced into mournfulness, forgetting for a brief moment that both rats are in fact dead. Other, more surreal creatures exist within what we might imagine to be a sort of afterlife; her seven-headed rat quietly recalls the biblical Book of Revelations.
Hebson’s creations are dizzyingly anachronistic, seeming to draw inspiration from anywhere between the Medieval Gothic period to the Victorian age. Unified only in their deaths, her works speak across generations and inspire us to mourn for those we so often forget. (via BUST and VICE)