A longstanding preoccupation with anthropological animal artefacts and natural history museology has informed Troy Emery’s latest body of work. Inspired by the way animals double as decorative objects, the Melbourne-based artist has used wildly colourful yarn, pompoms, tinsels and tassels to create what he labels ‘fake taxidermy.”
Exploring the role of animals outside of their natural habitat – as display pieces in zoos, hunting trophies, or in the home as taxidermy – was of particular interest to Emery.
“In the museum and the zoo, the animal body represents both an idealised abstracted concept of nature and a nature under threat,” tells Emery. “The idea that a single animal body can conjure up a whole imagined habitat or ecosystem is something I’m interested in. Taxidermy presents a conundrum where the plight of species that are endangered, rare, or under threat is represented by something dead.”
Sourcing polyurethane foam mannequins from taxidermists, Emery augmented the poses and details of the animals before applying the pompoms one at a time using hot glue, creating something akin to a new skin or pelt. Handcrafting most of the materials himself offered the artist more control over the finished effect, but meant that some of the larger works took over 50 hours to complete.
“In the past I’ve described my sculptures as ‘fake taxidermy’ because they mimic the process of taxidermy in the way that I’m giving the animal form a new skin,” he says.
The use of plush craft pompoms, while serving a striking aesthetic purpose, was chosen to make a larger statement about nature. “There is something awkward about pompoms too,” he says. “They are purely decorative and ubiquitous in craft stores. I think they are a great material to explore the dichotomy of ‘art’ and ‘craft’.”
The dichotomy Emery refers to is evident in some of the animal’s statures, which are at times aggressive and juxtaposes with their soft, playful exterior. In this way, Emery is mirroring the animal kingdom, where some of the softest and most exotic coloured animals are the most ferocious up close.
“I [also] like how they allude to toys and childhood art,” he says of the nostalgic draw card of the pompoms. “These fluffy, colourful forms are dream-like monsters that reference my childhood stuffed toys and my interest in the anthropological animal artefacts.”
Troy Emery’s exhibit opens at Sydney’s Martin Browne Contemporary this November.