Find Beauty In Death

Some people get very freaked out by stuffed animals. For me, if they have died of natural causes – and not for the sake of art – then I think that stuffing them is really quite beautiful. For years my home has been adorned with all sorts of animals – sheep, foxes, a beautiful doe’s head and endless little birds. My Mum loves them. She loves animals in whatever form they come, so as well as the two dogs, two cats and five hens that we have living and breathing, we also have these rather more wild animals that stare serenely from their permanent positions in our house.

There has been a lot in the press recently about a lady called Polly Morgan who is a rather glamorous taxidermist. On arrival at her website, the very first words you see are: “All taxidermied animals are either road casualties or have been donated to the artist by pet owners and vets after natural or unpreventable deaths. If you may be upset or offended by the sight of a dead animal then please don’t enter this site.” I realise that there is a thin line between beautiful and grotesque, and that for many, Polly’s work will upset them. However, I find it beautiful. To me, these little creatures remind me not to be scared of death. They look serene and calm, many of them look as if they are just sleeping and oddly, I find it comforting. It’s funny, though, because when it comes to stuffing one of her own pets she told the Independent:

“No way. I have no emotional attachment to the animals in my pieces, I don’t dwell on their lives. It would be very different if I knew him or her.” Though she has frozen one of her pets, a canary which used to fly freely in the studio she shared with her ex-fiancé, the 57-year-old installation artist Paul Fryer, an old friend of Damien Hirst. “She would sleep curled up on one of the beams, like a tiny ball of coloured feathers,” Morgan recalls. When she died, two years ago, the couple decided to freeze her body, but Morgan hasn’t been able to do anything with it since: “Even now it’s still difficult just to pick her up. If I come across her body in the freezer, I panic and drop it.”

My favourite piece of Polly’s is a white rabbit upon a top hat. Her website is very good: Allegedly, her exquisite eye and talent has been spotted by Banksy, Hirst and Saatchi and now she is holding many shows across the country. Well deserved, I think.