Exotic Taxidermied Creatures Land Their Creator in Jail

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In Enrique Gomez De Molina’s hands, animals become chimeras—multiple animals blended into one fantasy, nightmare creature. His taxidermied beasts are at once weird and wonderful, absorbing and off-putting. “I guess I like to play God, “ he laughs in a Thrillist interview. Two swan heads share a goat’s body. A nasty little crab/rodent sneers at the camera. Bird’s bills and fur, antlers and insects join seamlessly to make creatures that defy nature. Gomez De Molina says of his strange menagerie:

“The impossibility of my sculpture brings me both joy and sadness at the same time. The joy comes from seeing and experiencing the Fantasy of the work but that is coupled with the sadness of the fact that we are destroying all of these beautiful things.”

Ironically, Gomez De Molina may be indirectly contributing to that destruction himself. Arrested for illegally importing animal parts, he pled guilty in 2012 and received 20 months in federal prison for trafficking in endangered and protected wildlife. Though he declares the best of intentions for his actions—bringing attention to the plight of endangered animals—his purchases certainly created a deathly supply for his demand. Why take such a risk? His taxidermied chimeras sold for up to $80,000 before his arrest.

Gomez De Molina’s side is that he wants “to bring awareness to the danger faced by a multitude of species: nuclear and chemical waste, overdevelopment, and destruction of rainforests.” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer doesn’t see it that way.

“For years, DeMolina illegally imported parts and remains of endangered and threatened species, including a cobra, a pangolin, hornbills, and the skulls of babirusa and orangutans, and used them to create taxidermy pieces. … Trafficking in endangered and threatened species, whether for personal profit or under the guise of art, is illegal.”

It remains to be seen whether Gomez De Molina will return to art now that his exotic art supplies have been confiscated.

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Haunting Knitted Animal Pelts Draw Attention To the Plight Of Endangered Species

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Stretched and bound over wooden frames, the animal pelts of Australian artist Ruth Marshall are so utterly realistic looking that it is difficult to believe that they are not in fact fur and hide. Constructed out of knitted yarn, they compel us to consider the endangered species killed and skinned by poachers and collectors. Though illegal, the devastating skin trade has taken the lives of thousands of tigers in the past thirteen years, leaving only an estimated 3,200 tigers in the wild. Before poaching practices, deforestation, and other damaging factors contributed by humans, there were approximately 100,000 of this magnificent creatures around the globe.

Marshall learned of the plight of wild cat species while working at the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, an experience that moved her deeply. With her Big Cat Series, she hopes to provide a sustainable and humane alternative to tiger, leopard, and jaguar pelts. The nuances of each life-sized work is touchingly based on a real animal, whom the artist became acquainted in captive conditions. A few are modeled after skins owned by collectors. The project effortlessly illustrates the value of artisan work, which ultimately could hold higher commercial value than black market pelts.

Here, Marshall transforms a cruel practice into a labor of love. Where animal pelts have come to represent a cruel and grotesque opulence and greed, she introduces knitting, a craft associated with nurturing and care. As a result, her pieces are both disarming and lovely,a refreshing jolt of sustainability and activism. To learn how you can help save the tigers and other animals, please visit World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society. (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)

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