Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At the intersection of art and taxidermy: The best skull mount ever

Photo © Fern Benson 2009

Hunting culture is full of clichés: The same old upland photo (broken double gun with shells and dead birds). The same old hunting stories (with a musty whiff of Hemingway). The same old duck hunting painting (a magnificent Lab gazing into eternity while mallards fly in the distance).

But me, I’m always searching for the unusual, and today I saw it. It’s what happens when art meets hunting.

It’s the glass bear skull - a glimmering, surreal artifact of the hunt. And I want one!

OK, full confession here:
My mother, Ruth Heyser, is the artist, and I’ve been watching her work on this skull, commissioned by Michael Riddle of Native Hunt Enterprises, since February. Today was the day she delivered it to Michael.

Here’s how it came about: My mom has been an artist for ages, but she’s always evolving and trying new media. She’s especially fond of things most of us would consider trash. I mean, she goes berserk over an interestingly shaped hunk of rusty metal.

Earlier this year, she got it in her head that she wanted to decorate a skull in broken glass, so she chose one of the zillions of skulls we tend to collect (in this case, the skull of a domestic pig she and my dad had slaughtered), scooped up some broken car-window safety glass and got to work.

She brought it to me in January and I was blown away. “Mom, I bet hunters would LOVE to have something like that,” I told her.

So I emailed a picture of that pig to Michael – a veteran hunter and operator of several hunt properties around Central California – and asked him what he thought.

His reaction was much like mine: He wanted one!

A few weeks later, he sent Mom a bear skull he’d been keeping – it was from a 10-year-old California black bear sow he’d killed in Plumas County back in 2000. And then Mom went to work: Finding the right glass, meticulously cleaning and sorting through the pieces with tweezers and gluing them to the skull, one at a time, piecing glass fragments together like a mosaic. It took about eight weeks.

And man, was it worth it.

You know how a car windshield looks when it’s been smacked hard and cracked through and through, but it’s still holding together? Imagine that wrapped around the contours of a bear skull – like all the pieces were meant to fit together.

It is gorgeous.

It’s the kind of thing you could imagine finding in an old, long-hidden cave – a glimpse into a culture that reveres the animals it hunts. Or perhaps the subject of a mystery novel. Or something you’d see in a museum.

“It adds a whole new dimension to doing a skull mount,” Michael told me today after Mom delivered it.

And for me, it adds another dimension to my life: one in which my mom's world of art intersects with my world of hunting.

If you're interested in commissioning a glass skull, contact me by clicking here and I can provide more information.

Postscript for anyone trying to comment: For some reason, if you click on "Read more" above, the link to "comments" that's usually at the end of each post disappears (at least on my computer). If you're trying to comment, just go back up and click on the headline and that should take you to a version that allows you to chime in.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

So cool!

Phillip said...

That's absolutely awesome!

Careful, or your mom will have more work than she ever dreamed of! I know I'm already picking through my euro mounts thinking which one would look best done up like that...

Jon Roth said...

That is a very interesting piece of art!

Native said...

The photos, although beautiful, do not even do the piece justice.

A truly unique work of art that my wife has already confiscated, and proudly has displayed for our visiting relatives this weekend.

I have already commissioned Mrs. Heyser to do another one for me.

Josh said...

Okay, Phillip should have a pig's head with nice tusks mounted, for sure. Hank should get a tiny snipe skeleton completely done up, and me...? How about an empty shell casing? That's usually what I eat...

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Really nice piece. Kind of real world damien hirst

Blessed said...

OK, I want one too. That is awesome! Your mom did a good job!

gary said...

Wow, she must have a lot better eye sight then I. Thats mighty intricate and detailed work, and with fabulous results.

SimplyOutdoors said...

That is very unique, and also very cool.!

Albert A Rasch said...

That technique is too cool! It has a definite Indian Jones meets Karamojo Bell look to it!

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
The Range Reviews: Tactical.
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, It is actually beautiful. Tell your Mom she really did an amazing job.

suzee said...

I'm so glad to finally see your mom's creation!That is so unique!It looks like something from the ice age!So amazing to see what an artistic mind and talent can come up with!

Hubert Hubert said...

Yes, it's lovely and very striking. Like SBW it reminded me of Damian Hirst's diamond skull but, no kidding, your mother's work is much nicer!


Home on the Range said...

That is an amazing piece of art.

Striking and haunting both.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks, Brigid! I'm lucky to have the prototype on display in my house right now. I'm hoping Mom will forget and leave it here for a while.


Great work. Just got to see the two skulls up close a couple weeks ago!

Colleen said...

Holly, I've said it before and I'll say it again -- your mom is an AMAZING woman! I love how she makes art that is as unique and intriguing as she is!