Divya Anantharaman cuts open the box, removes its contents, and gingerly unwraps each piece. She stretches white latex gloves over each hand, and on a plastic cutting board bedazzled with disney princesses, sets a gleaming silver knife. Anantharaman is a self-proclaimed rogue taxidermist. She transforms animals who've died naturally into art by decorating their preserved carcasses with beads, flowers and sparkly sequins. "It's how I connect with nature, and how I come to terms with mortality," Anantharaman says.
One day while playing in her backyard in India, six-year-old Divya Anantharaman came across a dead lizard. Seeking to commemorate the animal, she added it to her collection of dried wild flowers and plants. The next day, after her mother noticed a putrid smell emanating from her daughter's room, she promptly discarded the wilted, rotting carcass. Sad to see her friend go, Anantharaman decided to devote her life to paying tribute to animals that have passed away. As a current resident of Brooklyn, New York, Ananthamaran now gets most of the material for her artwork—from birds to deer, rabbits and goats—from farmers who can't use the animals or hikers who find them along the trail. She stuffs them, decorates them with pearls, glitter and dried flowers and displays them proudly. For Ananthamaran, the work is her way of connecting with mortality and redefining death.
There was this beautiful princess in ancient times and she looked at the moon and was envious of the beauty of the moon and saw the reflection of the moon in the river and reached out for it one night, and the legend goes that she touched the moon but obviously she drowned in the water and then after that time they saw that they saw this beautiful flower blooming and the named the flower after this princess.
For me the feeling I get when I do taxidermy, it's always this feeling of intimacy with you know whatever specimen I'm working on. It's, yeah that's the feeling it's intimacy and I'm really always in awe by anything I see on my table or on my workbench.
From that time when I was really young I always thought of where death and life meet and how much death is around us and how much it is a part of life and, yeah just how...what that means to me.
Sometimes they're not in the greatest condition, because if something dies of old age, sometimes it died beautiful and sometimes it died missing a few feathers...most taxidermists don't want those things. They want something perfect that will be this perfect mount, um so I guess my work is really driven by taking things that are imperfect and um seeing either how to...seeing a way to commemorate them and really honoring them and saying you know just cause you're missing a few feathers doesn't mean you're not beautiful.
And even though it wasn't the greatest piece I ever made, it was still, like, you know, still charged with so much emotion. I felt this…it was something I hadn't, you know, until that time I hadn't done before so I felt like this really, it was this very intimate experience with this animal like, you know, seeing it inside and out.
This is how I can connect with nature and sort of come to terms with mortality.
Part of it does make me a little sad but another part of it makes me happy that, you know, luckily, like someone didn't just bury this animal or throw it away or something and I'm like, oh cool I get to have it and I get to turn it into something and a ton of people will look at this animal and you know, it'll make a lot of people either happy or at least it'll tell a story to a lot of people. It’s probably really corny, but it’s sort of just a way of keeping something that you love with you forever.
taxidermy, art, artist, brooklyn, newyork, nyc, greenpoint, rogue, taxidermist, sustainable, alternative, divya
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