Cory Foth has been practicing taxidermy for 20 years, but Sunflower Theatre’s inaugural art show March 21 provides a rare opportunity — to share his work with the greater Peabody community.
“A lot of people have an idea of what taxidermy is,” he said. “Unless you’re friends with me or follow my business on social media, you haven’t really seen anything in person that I’ve done.”
Taxidermy is about more than mounting a bust on a wall, Foth said.
“It’s a 3-D rendering of a specimen,” he said. “In the bigger shows you try to arrange things artistically.”
The art show’s organizers were unsure if enough artists would participate.
Instead, the event drew so many entries that no more submissions could be accepted after the first week, committee member Susan Mayo said.
“We had a huge interest,” she said. “We’re going to do another one because we had so much interest. Hopefully, we’ll eventually have an art gallery in there where we can have permanent monthly shows.”
The 35 exhibitors participating range from photographers and graphic designers to less typical artists like cake decorators and Foth’s taxidermy.
“We need a place like this to do the arts in Peabody,” Mayo said. “Even having our really small community there has been an incredible outpouring of interest.”
Holding occasional events at the theater while side projects continue helps maintaining community awareness, Mayo said.
“We’re trying to keep activities going in the theater as we work on reconstruction to keep people’s interests,” she said.
Some artists will be selling work, but there won’t be any awards or competition.
The buzz the new show has generated among creative minds who are eager to share their work has been great, Mayo said.
“Art is a basic human need,” she said. “People are excited to do that and share what they’re doing.”
Taxidermy stands apart from other art forms in the anatomical accuracy that is expected, Foth said. That expectation also means taxidermists need experience in other media.
“The guy who can paint incredibly well might not be able to sculpt or draw very well either because he’s used to using his brush in different ways,” he said. “If you’re going to be an excellent taxidermist you have to be able to do all those at a fairly competent level.
Foth competes in three or four shows a year, and prefers taxidermy of fish or birds.
“It’s unlike a deer head on the wall where you’re missing ¾ of the animal,” he said. “The other thing is that fish and birds come in great colors. It’s easy to be artistic while holding true to the specimen.”
Along with conveying the lifelike nature of working with a dead animal, Foth said there’s an important understanding in the responsibility he holds.
“There is somewhat of a responsibility or burden to handle the animal with respect,” he said. “That guy is willing to pay you for you to save his memory forever.”