Gallery exhibition takes a walk on the wild side

A new exhibition opening on Friday, 15 July at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in Windsor invites you to embark on a journey of discovery and surprise through artist Rod McCrae’s cutting edge Wunderkammer/After-life, exploring human interaction with nature through the use of ethically sourced taxidermy animals.

Featuring real wild animals including a zebra, a lion, penguins, antelope, fox, fawn, fish, rabbits, a baboon
and a polar bear, this ‘cabinet of wonders’ (from the German term referring to a cabinet or room full of curiosities) brings together sculpture and various media to discuss a broad range of conservation issues, from climate change to big game hunting.

Artist Rod McRae said: “Each work explores an animal ‘issue’ using real preserved animal bodies (taxidermy) to tell their stories. Using the real thing creates art that is both authentic and empathetic. I argue that sculptures of animals rendered in resin, plastic, stone, wood or metal cannot speak as directly to us as the real animal. Each work touches on a different aspect of the human-animal relationship including biodiversity, pollution, climate change, conservation and stewardship. Each work asks us to examine our responsibilities as fellow travellers on this planet”.

McRae first learned of taxidermy’s effects on people in the early 1980s. The New Zealand-born children’s book illustrator had just taken up a correspondence course in taxidermy, and, working from home, he tried his hand at stuffing and mounting animals, storing the specimens wherever he could.

“My flatmates would come home and find road kill and god knows what else in the freezer box with tails hanging out of it,” he added.

More confronting than finding a stuffed animal in the fridge, McRae suggests, is the matter of animal-human relations at large. Faced with real stuffed animals, not sculptures, audiences are cornered.

“There’s something very visceral about dealing with taxidermy,” he said, “something very emotional that people can’t hide from, can’t walk away from – they have to engage.”

Also opening is After-Humans, an exhibition of illustration and rendered models and rendered models from students in the Diploma of Graphic Design Illustration at the Design Centre Enmore, Sydney TAFE explores the question, ‘what would happen to our beloved pets (in particular cats and dogs) if humankind vanished off the face of the earth, how would they survive and how would they evolve over time?’

The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Kim Ford, who will officially open both exhibitions on Friday, 15 July at 6pm, said both exhibitions are “intriguing” and that “visitors are sure to experience a combination of surprise and delight” when visiting the Gallery. Hawkesbury Regional Gallery is located at Deerubbin Centre (1st Floor) 300 George Street, Windsor, phone (02) 4560 4441.

Exhibition title: Wunderkammer/After-Life and After-Humans
Dates: 15 July – 4 September