How road kill came to inspire the drawings — and taxidermy — of Kate Puxley
"I like the idea of creating new habitats or dioramas in these old technologies, in garbage."
Step inside Kate's studio in episode two of The Re-Education of Eddy Rogo, a new digital original series from CBC Arts.
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."
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.