I spoke to the lovely Lucia Mocnay about her beautiful anthropomorphic foxes and how she got into taxidermy. I strongly recommend checking out the stop motion animations she talks about as part of her inspiration (just click on the links in the interview).
There’s also an exclusive sneak peek at her newest creation, Dame Eleonora Nautique (aka Mrs Shippy). Enjoy!
Death&Glory: How did you get into taxidermy?
Lucia Mocnay: I got into taxidermy pretty unconventionally I think. I was always working with bones and feathers and other found objects in my art (I studied Fine Arts at Monash Uni in Melbourne) so it was I guess a natural progression, though I got into actual taxidermy because my partner is a tattoo artist, and he was always needing all sorts of still life references to draw from, so when we went to buy some taxidermy, I had a close look at it, I dissected it in my mind, and I thought, “I could make this.”
So I did a bit of research and bought the tools and all the necessary things. Along the way I made a friend in the industry, asked a bit of advice, and then I just did it. It was always in my line of creative work to collect pieces from everywhere and put them all together. I had mainly worked with mixed media from nature/found objects in my past.
I do remember though, it was such a pivotal revelation for me to be starting in this type of work. It felt a bit like an exciting taboo-ish initiation, working with animal skins. When the idea occurred to me, it was like a bolt of lightning, and I was high as a kite for weeks as I felt a door open. I had found a new direction in life and a new creative outlet, one that seemed so right and natural. Not to sound cheesy but I follow
astrology and at the time there was a stellar line up in the sky for potent new beginnings. I felt that the timing was perfect.
I had been stifled creatively for a looooong while, as I have 2 young boys which took up all my spare time, and now they are growing and going to school so I have found extra time on my hands where I can be
creative. And so I have been. (I was miserable before, there’s nothing worse than an artist who cannot create. It sounds wrong, but taxidermy saved my sanity!)
The Anthropomorphic part came out of a bit of fun really. I have a whole collection of dress-ups, as I was always modelling for Justin’s tattoo reference. Pirate wench, gypsy, zombie bride. Justin needed some animal characters to draw from, so when we bought our first piece of taxidermy, a horribly made stinky fox head, I made a fox bride for him, and a foxy Mexican and a grandpa. It was just so much fun dressing the fox up that by the time I made my own taxidermy fox head from scratch I had so many different characters in my head that I wanted to create, and at present, I am partway through the list.
D&G: What/who inspires your work?
LM: It might go without saying, that Walter Potter inspires my work, being the forefather of Anthropomorphic Taxidermy. There are not many others I know of in the field that I could name. Olden day Fairy Tales inspire my work, so do movies like Jan Švankmajer’s “Alice”, which is an 1988 stop motion taxidermy rendition of Alice in Wonderland. Being from Slovakia, and the movie being Czech, I grew up with this sort of influence around me from my ancestry. This style feels like home to me. One of my uncles in Slovakia had a big taxidermy/entomological collection which always awed me, as did the Slovak Fairy Tale stories of animals talking and being human, which my parents told us as kids each night in bed. It’s strange how we unconsciously chase those things we cherished as children when we become adults.
There is also an old stop motion silent film made by a Russian movie maker, called “The Insects’ Christmas” by Vladislav Starevich. It was made in 1913. It’s beautiful and scenes such as these inspire my
Tattoo art also inspires my work. The iconography that tattoos use I also use in my work. My partner being a tattooist, the influence surrounds me via him and following high end tattoo art, seeing new trends developing, keeps me forever getting new ideas.
And also, historic Magic posters and other historic illustrations inspire most of my characters’ costumes.
Most of my characters are from the Olden Days as humans had much more fashion flare back then than we do now. Not to say a Gaga piece won’t be made though.
D&G: Where do you source your animals?
LM: Living in the ‘burbs of Melbourne, Australia I don’t have a natural supply of animals. I have Taxidermist friends on farms in the outback who deal with buying and selling from overseas and also do some invasive species culling of foxes and hares. In Australia we have a real problem with our native species being eradicated due to foxes, hares and rabbits, which in my case is kind of lucky as they are my favourite animals to work with.
D&G: What are you working on currently?
LM: I like to have a few projects running concurrently. I find it helps me finish faster as I need room to start my new projects so I make myself finish pieces in order to make the room for the next ones. Also with taxidermy and the drying time needed, it’s useful to have a few things going on so there is always something to work on. Currently I am working on an Alexander the Great type fox character, making an intricate beaded headgear/necklace to go over a turban. I am about to start a Harlequin hare character. The hare head is made, it just needs a costume now. With the insect domes, I have almost finished a piece for a tattoo artist with a rabbit skull and cicada and a few other bits and pieces reminiscent of the Alice movie.
Aglaia (a photographer) and I have just finished a photo shoot for “Dame Eleonora Nautique” otherwise known as Mrs Shippy. It’s the first shoot in our second series of photo shoots, taking them outdoors for the first time.
They are in the post production stage at the moment and should be released very soon, along with Mrs Shippy’s true name which I have just leaked above.
D&G: What’s your raison d’etre?
LM: What a hard question. Being creative is pretty much my whole reason for existence! Growing/creating and nurturing things (my kids included) and staying connected.
When I was younger I wanted to change the world one artwork at a time, though now I guess I’m more self indulgent and do what I do as I love to do it, and guess others out there may share my tastes. So I create what I want as I won’t be able to see it anywhere else.
When I couldn’t create for being a mum on vast time restrictions, I did the only creative thing I could multitask with and sang my day through! Though now, it’s the excitement of a new project or spark of an idea and then working from that spark, sourcing all the pieces and then putting them together. I love seeing/feeling things evolve in the flow.
I love sharing the making of my creations with friends and family when the energy is fresh and new. When it’s done, it hangs on a wall. No more creative energy gets put into it, it is done. Making them is much more fun for me. Though I do feel a great sense of pride when one is finished, I must admit. Seeing people in awe of my work reminds me of the awe I felt as a kid seeing taxidermy. So I guess that’s my present to people via the characters, childlike awe and bewilderment (or freakish horror, depending on how you are looking at them!!). I guess it’s not something they see every day.
And having thought about it for a minute now, I guess I am changing people’s worlds one artwork at a time, slightly differently than I had planned though!
I’m working on a website at the moment, and Aglaia and I and hopefully my partner Justin will do an exhibition together in Melbourne on our bodies of work with the theme of Anthropomorphism. Then I plan on making custom made pieces to order for whoever would like one, as I have a never ending store of characters to create and not enough wall space at home. My website is under construction at present, www.conjuredcreations.com.
All photography by Aglaia B
All artwork ©Lucia Mocnay