From Polly Morgan’s fox in a champagne coupe to Damien Hirst’s ever-expanding menagerie, taxidermy has confidently established a presence beyond curiosity shops and country estates. London-based taxidermist Harriet Horton now brings neon lighting and vibrant colour to the party.
“Wing”, for example, was designed for a DJ and features a dyed-orange crossbill hanging inside a bell jar above pink neon lettering (similar piece, £1,500), while a commission for musician Nadine Shah’s German tour with Depeche Mode saw Horton create a crow with its wings open and head bowed (similar piece, from £1,000). Indeed, birds lend themselves to domestic taxidermy displays particularly well: two sparrows caught mid-flight (similar piece, from £3,000, first picture), silhouetted against a neon backlight, would make a striking wall installation.
Smaller subjects have included a squirrel, slumbering peacefully on a marble base beneath a neon crown (similar piece, from £2,000, second picture), while another stands upright, sporting a delicate bracelet (similar piece, from £1,000). Another squirrel, this one dyed bright pink, naps in a glass case (similar piece, from £1,500).
Commissioning begins with a choice of animal – typically a rat, squirrel, small bird (house sparrow) or large bird (magpie) – all of which are ethically sourced, then a style of presentation (wall hanging, bell jar, standing sculpture), followed by colour and neon detailing. The time it takes varies according to the size of the subject and the hue – the brighter, the more painstaking the process of bleaching and dying feathers and fur.
In addition to bespoke works, Horton’s upcoming exhibitions include her first solo show Sleep Subjects, inspired by the way animals dream. Opening in London’s Crypt Gallery, in King’s Cross, on November 13, it features a “dream-like score” by Rob Shields and promises to be a multisensory experience of light and sound.