- Going RogueTaxidermists Katie Innamorato and Robert Marbury show there’s more than one way to skin (and mount) a cat.
On May 13, 2014, Katie Innamorato and Robert Marbury joined Joshua Foer onstage at the Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut, as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Innamorato is an award-winning taxidermist who teaches at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York. She utilizes roadkill, scrap skins from the garment industry, nuisance animals, and pet-industry casualties to create both traditional and abstract taxidermy. Marbury, a multidisciplinary artist, is the cofounder and acting director of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists and is a judge for the annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest in Brooklyn. His book, Taxidermy Art: A Rogue’s Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself, was published in 2014.
Katie, it looks like you’re giving a massage to a very bloody squirrel. What’s going on there?
I like to freeze everything before I work on it for at least two weeks to a month, because fleas and ticks will stay on a carcass and live for a while. Freezing helps kill off mites and parasites, at least slow them down. It also makes it easier, especially when I give classes, to have the animals at least a third to a half frozen when I skin them because—especially when it’s someone’s first time skinning an animal—they have a tendency to cut down into the body. When it’s still frozen, you’re not going to get a big mess all over the place. It’s easier to manage them when they’re still partially frozen. So in this case I was massaging the squirrel to open up the limbs, so that I don’t accidentally cut into the armpit or anything like that. You want to just loosen everything up, so that it’s easier to pry the limbs out of the skin later.
Now, Katie’s using a roadkill squirrel, which means it has died of trauma. She doesn’t know what trauma, which is why you would feel around to see what’s going on with it. If someone hunted something traditionally, there would be a bullet hole somewhere, and usually the rest of the body hasn’t had as much trauma. But when you start working with road-kill you learn very quickly that a lot of stuff can happen.
Katie, where did this particular squirrel come from?
I have a stockpile of roadkill that either I’ve picked up or that friends have picked up for me. My mentor and other taxidermists give me a lot of things. Or I get nuisance animals, ones that are in people’s attics, and you can’t release them or they’ll keep coming back. So they get put down.
And then these people call you? [End Page 12]
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Once you say, “I’m a rogue taxidermist,” everyone shows up with animals.
When I was going to school in New York, every day someone would text me on their way to campus: “I saw whatever, I don’t even know what it is—a skunk on the exit of 83,” or “I saw something orange, you might want to check it out.”
By the way, the best season to be picking up roadkill is clearly in the winter. Summer’s not the best—when you come up to it you can tell pretty quickly whether or not you even want to touch it.
What’s the history of traditional taxidermy?
Well, taxidermy came from collecting, and these cabinets of curiosities ended up creating our contemporary museums, galleries, libraries, and even circus sideshows and oddity shops. It all comes from this desire to preserve. A lot of it was for science. In Europe, many collections were ordered—birds over here, mammals over there—and you would...