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Sm{art}: Angela Singer

Sm{mart} header--the word smart in pink and orange

Angela Singer puts buttons, beads, and a barrage of sparkly things on dead animals to make art. Singer doesn't kill the animals though, nor does she go looking for road kill. She secures her stock from vintage recycled taxidermy, salvaged from old trophy rooms or donated by taxidermists, curiosity collectors, or retired hunters.

Originally from England, Singer moved to New Zealand to study. She later became active in Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV). Starting in the mid '90s, she took activism to art, translating its verbal message into a visual one. Singer uses mixed-media, mostly old jewelry and beads, to emphasize the covered bullet wounds, incisions, and disfigurements of taxidermied animals. According to ArtSlant, she has called the process de-taxidermy to show:

The unnecessary violence humans subject animals to, as well as the notion that people are inherently separate from and superior to the other species.

 Many of Singer's earlier artworks avail dead animals to make plain animal sufferance and magnify the human inclination that causes it. Her earlier collections tend toward the macabre, eerie, and flagrant. Shades of red to mark death feature prominently in these displays as do skinned animal parts, namely in her series entitled, "Tear." Yet, "Sore" is arguably Singer's most striking artwork from 2002-2003, shown below:

Sore, 2003, Angela Singer--a cow head covered in a red, bloodlike substance

Needless to say, her activism was apparent as were the surrounding suppositions, such as Anna Jackson's, who wrote online in NY Arts Magazine in early 2008: 

[Trophy hunting] represents a regressive urge to connect with the natural and instinctive animal self and is emblematic of macho stereotypes of man-as-hunter. But Singer's stuffed animals are not pumped with the bravado one might expect from classical trophies, quite the contrary - her animals are openly passive and often appear pathetic, thus highlighting the grotesqueness of human manipulation of the animal world.

 Yet, what may not have been apparent to Singer, early in her career, were questions raised by her viewers. For instance, me. I only learned of Singer's work recently and I have questions: Isn't Singer's artwork exploitative of that which has already been exploited, further perpetuating the people are separate from and superior to animal syndrome? Isn't Singer's process of de-taxidermy a reinvention of the animal-as-trophy concept, but with flowers and jewels in place of bullet holes and dismembered body parts? And why frilly sparkly things that suggest delicacy and femininity? And, isn't Singer's art only made relevant because of the animal it employs, the animal that has been hunted, killed, and trophied?

Perhaps other people have posed similar questions because Singer has since reconsidered her art and its intent in the last few years, and it's evident.

The Inseparables, 2009, Angela Singer--a fawn posed with three colorful birds around its head

Today, Singer's de-taxidermy process may include two or more species in the same display, taking the place of her signature beads and buttons. "The Inseparables" art piece above, from 2009, features three parrots around the head and neck of a fawn. There is a dearth of red and death in this display.

In a March-April exhibition at the University of Tasmania, Australia, "Reconstructing the Animal," Singer's "Breaking the Lake" goose bust below is dressed in jewels of blue and green—atypical of her earlier work—more or less in an effort to invite viewers to, based on the exhibition, "re-think their relationships with animal life," rather than scare them away.

Breaking the Lake, 2011, Angela Singer

In "Enchanted Forest," a two-city multi-artist European exhibition recognizing the United Nation's International Year of Forests, Singer's "Violante" features a quail blanketing the head of a fawn (and a snake) on bed of pink, ivory, and pearl beads in a glass case, shown below, conceivably to complement the exhibit's intent to recreate "the forest's magic and liveliness" for public consumption.

Violante, 2011, Angela Singer--a fawn, snake, and quail lying together on a bed of beads

Regardless of Singer's intent—to promote animals rights, question the tacitness of social mores and human superiority, or promote environmentalism—she does not seem to want to convey a single message to the viewer. Singer allows viewers to formulate their own questions & answers, making her work all the more thought-provoking and compelling.

Previously: Ana Benaroya, Sophia Wallace: Not Your Typical Fashion Shoot

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Angela Singer

My first reaction is to shudder at the dead animals... The blood covered fawn is very reminicent of peta's emotionally terrorizing pictures of butchered animals. I can not imagine anyone living with that peice of art/pain in their house!
I can understand why her work softens somewhat. Her latter work is well, almost beautiful, very bittersweet and oddly compassionate...