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Creature Feature: Stuffed Animals as Art?

See for yourself at the Walters Art Museum

      From John Waters to HonFest to the Visionary Arts Museum, our biggest city has its cherished weirdness. The stately Walters Art Museum, founded by a scion of industry, is better known for very fine art — masterpieces from the ancient Mediterranean, Africa, East Asia, Middle East and the Americas — than funny art.
       Make that was better known.
       Ever seeking relevance, art museums must court every new generation. That means branching out into new ways of looking at the old things.
        At the Walters, that includes taxidermy, the ancient art of preserving deceased creatures. Specifically, on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 6, it means the 4th Annual Baltimore Taxidermy Open brings 20 taxidermy artists, collectors and conservators to the Roman temple-style museum to display their handiwork.
        Taxidermy is nothing new to the Walters, public programs coordinator Hannah Burstein explains. The Museum’s Chamber of Wonders, modeled after the curio cabinets where 16th century noblemen showed off their collection of the wonders of the world, includes taxidermy.
       “Naturalists of the period were interested in all sorts of animals, real and fantastical,” Burstein said.
       Taxidermy allowed the animals to be seen without the bother of keeping them alive.
        Seeking relevance, Burstein reached out to the Hampden shop Bazaar, an outpost of the bizarre.
        From that connection rose the free exhibit that will amaze you September 6.
        Artists from as far away as San Francisco show in four categories: professional, up and coming, collector and mixed media, which might include, for example, vegan taxidermy based on stuffed animals. 
         Works range, says Burstein, “from pure beauty to goofy and irreverent.”
         Somewhere along that spectrum fell last year’s best of show winner, a goatskin purse more specific than your usual animal hide handbag. 
         This year, who knows what you’ll see: