Whether you think it’s morbid or marvellous, artist Polly Morgan loves stuffed animals – to her, taxidermy is a fabulous art form, and, incidentally, her meal ticket. So popular have Polly’s creations become, in fact, that celebrities are queuing up to get their own four-legged – or winged – corpse (the Londoner counts Kate Moss and Sharleen Spiteri among her roster of a-list clients). And as a member of the Guild of Taxidermists, Polly now demands between £8,000- £30,000 for her pieces, with serious collectors willing to fork out serious money for something furry to perch on their mantelpieces. We were lucky enough to snag Polly as a contributor for our latest treasure tome – Hg2 Art – in which she discusses her highly controversial work. But you don’t have to wait for the book to hit the shelves; we sit down with Polly here (not for long, mind, in case she gets any ideas) and find out what it is about taxidermy that gets her fur flying.
Hg2 Art on sale late October. Read more about it here
Name Polly Morgan.
Background? I grew up in a county near Oxford, came to London University to study English but after graduating started to manage the bar I had been tending to help pay my way through university. I did some freelance journalism at this point and then discovered taxidermy in 2004. In 2005 I exhibited at the Zoo Art Fair and have been exhibiting consistently since.
Are you a hedonist? I’m not averse to fine wine, good food, a gram of coke and a stripper.
There are plenty of artists out there – why do you think you’ve become so well-known? The press tend to be unimaginative and want a ‘hook’ or a ‘twist’ to a story. The fact I was a 24-year-old blonde female pricked their interest, as I appeared to turn the stereotype of a taxidermist on its head, as well as the tradition of mimicking the animals’ natural habitat. Another reason is because some of my clients have been celebrities, and that’s all anyone seems to want to write about! I’ve been very lucky and I’m not complaining, but I feel for talented people who get overlooked because the materials they use are deemed too ordinary to be worth a mention.
What is it about taxidermy that fascinates you? A corpse is a beautiful, expressive material to work with. There is just so much you can do with them. I have more ideas of how to display them than I’ll ever have time to make. I love the process of transforming a corpse from something degradable into something that lasts without changing its appearance too much. When done competently, it’s like magic. I love the tricks it plays on your mind. For me, it’s a huge improvement on photography – instead of having an image of something beautiful, which is still far removed from reality, you can have the real thing in 3-D.
What would you say to those who think taxidermy is disturbing? Look at something else, there are plenty of anodyne things out there.
If you were a city, which one would you be and why? I’ve just been to a town in Armenia called Alaverdi that is the most amazing-looking place I’ve ever seen. Surrounded by mountains, it is crammed with industrial buildings stacked on top of each other, belching out smoke and flames. It looks both futuristic and archaic, like metropolis. Having said that I’d have to be London, just because I am a real product of London. I’ve absorbed so many influences since I’ve lived here and think I’m a typical Londoner, in that there isn’t really one.
Have you had any celebrity clients? Yes.
Finally, do you have any pets?! Not at the moment. I wish I did have. I had a few canaries that flew free around the studio for a while, but one escaped and the other died shortly after. I can’t make my mind up about what pet I’d have – I keep changing my mind between a dog and a chameleon.