Friday, January 19, 2007

Fake Heads

In the "TRENDS" section of the LA times, Reid found this piece of possible Q.-reader interest: "Wild, styled and gleefully cruelty-free."

Staff writer David Keeps uses that description to categorize the artificial animal trophies he claims are "becoming fashionable wall decor, especially for urban hipsters." Keeps interviews a number of retailers who speculate as to the motives of those who go faux, ranging from inexpensive affectation to a grander lifestyle to " politically correct consumerism." There is a hint of post-modernism here also: "Hanging a likeness of a dead animal made from an inorganic material, [one retailer] says, 'adds an obvious element of irony when the medium and the message are so fundamentally opposed.'"

Obvious to some, maybe. But the concept is not necessarily post-modern, and it's certainly not new. Manufactured images of animals have always been a part of human householdss. That animal shapes are pleasingly sculptural and well-suited to stylized renderings was clear to the cave dwellers of Lascaux, circa 15,000 B.C. (the French were always fashionable). Taxidermy and mounted trophies, by contrast, must have a much shorter history. I wonder: Were mounted heads considered ironic when they first became available?

My point is only to steal a little thunder from anyone who might think a faux animal head is a fresh or pithy political statement. Folks to whom this sentiment might make sense:

"I suspect that anybody that buys these has no desire to hunt a deer," says
product designer Aaron Silverstein. "They are elegant and slightly stylized,
enough removed from reality that they don't freak anyone out."

Is that the mantra of our age, or what?

Still...some of these are pretty neat!


Peculiar said...

I always liked our friend in Montana's approach; he mounted the skulls. Lots of African antelope, some north American things, but the warthog was my personal favorite. I've always thought the taxidermied heads were fairly tacky, and you would too if you'd spent formative years in Jackson Hole (I visited this summer and saw, among much else, a preserved supine squirrel grasping a Southern Comfort bottle: that's where it leads). The skulls are more scientifically interesting, more graphically vivid, and more honest in their acknowledgement of death.

Matt Mullenix said...

Well said!

Russ London said...


More that 40 years ago my mother decided to surprise my brother and I with a redecorated bedroom (kind of an early "while you were out"). The rug was a not at all realistic printed zebra skin on carpet. The light fixture was a compass rose over a world map. We each got a large animal head. My brother, now an engineer got a bear. I, now an attorney, got a tiger. I am not sure of her reasoning. The bear looked fairly good, the tiger had very strange white sideburns. Both were created from then modern rayon and nylon fibers, plastic eyes,and cotton stuffing and mounted on plywood. I believe that the bedspreads were tiger striped (easy to find in Baton Rouge).
Everything went perfectly with our then cool "jungle jim" baggy shorts with lots of pockets, web belt, and pocket knife clips. We had to use the clips for small flash lights until we got our official Cub Scout whittling "chips". The decor did, however clash with our NY Yankee pinstripe PJs.
The heads and light fixture are now in my son's room. The rug was ruined by model glue, chocolate milk, and ketchup long ago.


Anonymous said...

I would be very interested in a company that could provide photo-realistic models of animals. Species that can't be hunted, or simply don't taxidermy well could be represented, and the models could be taken as a sign of appreciation for the species rather than a status symbol or penis-extension.

I would love to have photo-realiztic full body mounts of faux quetzels and whooping cranes. Perhaps even a moa if I were feeling silly.

-R. A. Wilderson

Anonymous said... has all kinds of fake skulls.

Reid Farmer said...

(I visited this summer and saw, among much else, a preserved supine squirrel grasping a Southern Comfort bottle: that's where it leads).
Once I was touring the corporate headquarters of Southwest Airlines and in the boardroom there was a full body mount of a male wild turkey. The back of the turkey hinged open revealing a small compartment containing a bottle of the CEO's favorite bourbon - Wild Turkey.

Heidi the Hick said...

This part really struck me:

"Urban residents seem particularly smitten, equating deer heads with the simplicity of green living, the luxury of ski lodges and the rustic coziness of country cabins."

But the next paragraph about fake racks was even better.

...that's all I got to say about that.