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One aspect unifies all branches of taxidermy. It strives to create the appearance of life in that which is unequivocally dead. And the life represented is always eternally stilled, whether or not it bears its fangs, whether or not it seems to be sniffing the air, or about to step a foot down lightly. It is frozen. Antelope, elk, wolves, cougars, in life these things wander or migrate; they range, which is to be defined by transience, movement between places that can provide sustenance. Perhaps that is what this land demanded. In some ways, the idea of building a town on the Laramie Plains is perverse. Like most places in Wyoming, the winds kick up regularly, the air is thin and dry, and not much grows here easily. But the building of streets, the fundamental grid-making of a town, asserts not only permanence, but fluidity. And so does the stopped movement of a mounted head in a certain way. When I allow ample time to take in, say, the elk mounts at Bulls-eye Archery on Snowy Range Road, something like respect begins to grow in me. The goal of taxidermy, after all, is not to convince anyone that the animal's likeness is living. It is to create a glimpse of something ephemeral, something we know is unrepeatable. The elk that cranes its neck, ear twitched as if it has heard a sound, is a moment from death, we know; but it is also fixed in time and space, captured, elegant, and ultimately defined by what it cannot be.

Gunther_racks_and_rifles.wav (788 kB)
Audio introduction to Racks and Rifles

merry_brothers.jpg (619 kB)
"Merry Brothers" artwork by Meghan Roswell

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