Category Archives: Post Industrial Art

Short Story Research: Taxidermy

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“… And here at last, was a real naturalist — the man who had been the first to explore Lake Okeechobee, who had been bitten by centipedes, who had written a book, who had collected turtle eggs for Agassiz [Louis Agassiz was the director of the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology at the time], and who had been so nearly paralyzed by arsenic, absorbed in his mounting of skins, that he walked with a sort of quick scuff and shuffle!” ~Dallas Lore Sharp

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The early 20th century was marked by an obsession with the act of preserving- whether plant, animal or human.

Folks have always been obsessed with living forever, but taxidermy took it to another level! Early on, arsenic was even used as a preserving agent, hence Jenks resulting paralysis.

Could this obsession with living forever be connected with fears related to expanding urbanism, the failings of European colonies, and increasing industrialization? I see it as all connected and all waiting for a juicy horror story featuring some gory taxidermy details! Yum!

                “Had Bicocur lived in ages past, hc would havc heen accused of witchcraft and enchantment. What wonders has this excellent naturalist been able to unite in his cabinet. These are truly immortal.”  

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Ahh taxidermy!

In 1894, the curator of the Jenks Museum of Natural History at Brown University was returning to the museum from lunch when he dropped dead on the very granite steps that led to the institution he loved and tended for 23 years.

Annie Johnson, a Brown alumna, chronicles in the spring of 1962 how an attic filled with spears, pottery and other artifacts was discovered as a wrecking ball was set to demolish Van Wickle Hall on campus. The items ended up at Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, says Dwight B. Heath, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brown.

How could I not be inspired to create some sort of short story on this Jenks dude and the resulting “artifacts” that were dumped?!

Here are some notes I’ve gathered to help me with the writing process:

taxidermy (from the Greek for arrangement of skin[1]) is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals (especially vertebrates) for display (e.g., as hunting trophies or museum display) or for other sources of study (like species identification) or simply the preservation of a beloved pet.

– In the 19th century, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops, where the upholsterer would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton.

-In France, Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in “Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle'” (1803–1804). This technique enabled the museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

Additional resources:

http://www.ravishingbeasts.com

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy#Tanning_and_early_stuffing_techniques

The ornithological cabinet of Jean-Baptiste Becoeur and the secret of the arsenical soap: http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/119/1193254263.pdf

 

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This is just the tip of the taxidermy iceberg folks!  Ima keep digging!

 

Short Story Research: Creatures!

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Who doesn’t love a good creature story?

classic mermaid folks

just a classic mermaid here folks

Nothing gets my imagination fired up like a tale involving mysterious creatures.  Below are some of the creatures I have been researching for some upcoming story ideas.  Enjoy!

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Cackatrice

-Can cause death with a single glance

-Eyes can turn you to stone

-Protection involves-carrying a mirror

-breath is poisonous

-Enemy is a weasel

Cackatrice

The Regal Cackatrice

The Soucouyant

The soucouyant is a shape-shifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.

Soucouyants suck people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning. If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.

soucouyant

Lovely Soucouyant

To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act. To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Haiti, Suriname and Trinidad.[4]

 

The Kappa

The Kappa

These scaly-skinned humanoids hail from Japanese folklore. The name roughly means “water-child,” and myth has them inhabiting Japan’s ponds and rivers. The hairless plate on the kappa’s head carries water, the source of their power. Sometimes they’re tricksters. Sometimes they’re killers. Either way, kappa make excellent stories.

The Kelpi

The Kelpi

Oooh! A mer-horse!  The Kelpi

You’ll find kelpie myths near water too, but only in Scotland. Their names are associated with horses, and this is their native form. But they’re just as likely to take on the guise of a human. That makes it easier to lure unsuspecting men and maidens into the water.  Read more on the Kelpie:  HERE

 

The Ichneumom

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 35–36, 37): ” The ichneumon is known for its willingness to fight to the death with the snake. To do this, it first covers itself with several coats of mud, drying each coat in the sun to form a kind of armor. When ready it attacks, turning away from the blows it receives until it sees an opportunity, then with its head held sideways it goes for its enemy’s throat. The ichneumon also attacks the crocodile in a similar manner.”
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:37): “That which is produced from the smell of this beast is both healthful and poisonous in food.”  Ewwww!

The Ichneumon

Our old pal the Ichneumon

Leonardo da Vinci [16th century CE] (“The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” edited by Jean Paul Richter):” This animal is the mortal enemy of the asp.

The Asp

The Asp

It is a native of Egypt and when it sees an asp near its place, it runs at once to the bed or mud of the Nile and with this makes itself muddy all over, then it dries itself in the sun, smears itself again with mud, and thus, drying one after the other, it makes itself three or four coatings like a coat of mail. Then it attacks the asp, and fights well with him, so that, taking its time it catches him in the throat and destroys him.”

The one and only Cthulu

……and of course I live in Providence so I can’t leave out Cthulhu!  According to Wikipedia, Cthulu is considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities. The creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references.Cthulhu’s anatomy is described as part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

Cthulhu

Dead but dreaming

I wonder what lurks beneath these waters…?!! hmmm?!

Providence River

Providence River

 

I hope these inspire me as I set out to create my own Providence River monster! My wheels are turning; More info about our local gator: HERE

 

Lonely: Writing Inspiration

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“I love you even when you don’t notice…”

post industrial art with a message

post industrial art with a message

 

I was recently asked:

Q: Why did that particular tag resonate so much to me that I used it with my essay? ( We Are Providence)

A: I love this tag for many reasons. As a writer, I think a lot about voice and perspective. This tag made me think about what kind of character could be saying this. Who, or even what, would martyr themselves to the degree this tag is expressing? Not only does this line hint at the common literary motif of martyrdom, it inspires my imagination when I take in the context.

Sunset in Providence

That building, abandoned for so many years, sitting on a waterfront that has seen everything from slave trading vessels to world class shipping fleets… right up the bay a19th century landfill is now transformed to a environmental education center.

Save The Bay in Providence

Save The Bay in Providence

An intricate waterway where fresh water meets the sea yet its burdened with waste and pollution. It’s this juxtaposition between nature and industry that has always resonated with me as a writer.

The tag raises all sorts of questions for me like, what kind of place is this that keeps on loving us even when we don’t notice? Even after years of environmental degradation, abuse of the natural resources, industrial sludge… and still, love remains? How telling of our potential for renewal. For transformation. How powerful.

The speaker could be the land or could be that lonely abandoned factory, trying to get our attention. There are so many possibilities there for us to envision. What sort of abusive, ill balanced relationship is this that we have with our Earth? With the city of Providence? It will keep on loving us even when we don’t notice it.

red bridge- Providence

Red Bridge- Providence

Isn’t the drive behind loving and being in love being seen? To be known? Still, there she is. Willing to forgo even that most basic recognition. We have dumped, we have polluted, we have neglected, we have gentrified… but still she loves us.

Gotta love Earth...

Gotta love Earth…