How road kill came to inspire the drawings — and taxidermy — of Kate Puxley

Kate Puxley makes charcoal drawings, sculptures and dioramas that all stem from a fascination with something that rarely appears in works of fine art: roadkill.

"I like the idea of creating new habitats or dioramas in these old technologies, in garbage."

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      Step inside Kate's studio in episode two of The Re-Education of Eddy Rogo, a new digital original series from CBC Arts.

      Name:Kate Puxley
      Born: Edmonton, 1983
      Lives and works: Montreal

      Her work: Kate Puxley makes charcoal drawings, sculptures and dioramas that all stem from a fascination with something that rarely appears in works of fine art: road kill. The fascination started at young age, when she saw a dead porcupine at the side of the road. "I was coming back into Toronto from catching frogs," says the artist, now based in Montreal. "The father of the boy I had been catching frogs with stopped the car, and he got out and he offered to saw off one of the paws of the porcupine to take home. It was the first time I was up-close-and-personal with a wild dead animal, so I think I carried that in my subconscious."

      An experienced portrait artist, Kate Puxley’s exploration into the animal world began with painting and sketching. She would sketch animals as she found them in real life and in museums - and sometimes, as she found them on the side of the road! Inspired by the delicate balance between human and animal life, Kate’s fascination led her to study the age-old art of taxidermy, through which she now rebuilds the animals she finds and gives them new life in her artworks. With her careful hand and great respect for animal life, Kate’s taxidermy is far removed from the practice of “trophy” hunting. Kate is a classic emerging artist who has a few things on the go to pay the bills - she sells her work privately, performs as a singer and is about to launch an Italian lunch counter with her husband. She is unrepresented but has exhibited in a number of group shows and with Galerie Yves Laroche. 4:35

      Learning taxidermy: After a year using road kill as her inspiration for her drawings, Puxley got a second bolt of inspiration: to use the animals themselves as materials. She started training as a taxidermist, first in Calgary, and then later in Italy, the U.K. and New Brunswick. She says that her first teacher, who was a commercial taxidermist working in the hunting community, was a wary of training an artist. "I think he sort of imagined me putting a Mohawk on a deer and playing with it," she says. "I don't think he understood that there was a real sentiment and concept behind it. And I had my own judgements of hunting culture. He had his own judgements of artists, and it created a really interesting discourse, but we reached some sort of understanding of each other."

      A raccoon in the television: In addition to using animals she finds at the side of the road, Puxley also combines them with other found objects to create dioramas. Revelation, which she shows Eddy in the episode above, features a raccoon playing with wires inside an old Zenith television set. "That raccoon spoke to me," she says. "It was perfect for that TV that had been discarded on the side of the road as well. I like the idea of creating new habitats or dioramas in these old technologies, in garbage. These technologies that we discard daily to replace with new ones."

      What's next? Puxley is working on a series of sculptures on "metamorphosis and erotics," as well as an opera that draws on range of musical genres and incorporates video — and taxidermy, naturally.

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