Thursday, April 25, 2013

Haunted By Glass Eyes

Yesterday I was up in London for the day with my son visiting a college open day. We had a couple of hours to spare before we caught our coach back so we wandered  around the Natural History Museum. It's quite a few years since I was here last, but it doesn't really change. The building is magnificent outside and in. It reminds me of Hogwarts.
If you've never been here, there is a lot of taxidermy (not a favourite thing of mine) but, all of it done by Victorians many years ago. Time has ticked on and the animals have faded,which adds to the melancholy feel of seeing them.


The old lion touched me the most. How can artificial eyes look so sad?  It made me wonder if the taxidermist was feeling the same as he prepared the King of the jungle for his life behind glass?  I promised him that he would feature in one of my paintings when I said goodbye.


Old Lion, how did you spend your days.
I hope you felt the African sun on your back.
Your real eyes have long gone, what did they see?
Zebra, impala, Baobab tree.
Your body treated and preserved for humans to admire.
In a cold case you stand, blind glass eyes.
I would take you out if I could.
Faded and sad and misunderstood.

                                                                    (Words by me)

23 comments:

  1. For glass such sad eyes as you say, but I seem to see in his face a question Why!!
    luv
    Maura xx

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  2. ps: Meant to say, lovely words in you poem.
    Maura xx

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  3. So touching.... I hope the lion can hear you.... X

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  4. Quite a building... and I can imagine feeling both drawn and repelled by so many stuffed animals. The lion is really something. Are we projecting that sadness on his eyes, or is it there, could we really ever know that? He is magnificent, I think how extraordinary it would be if one day there were a grand burial for all creatures stuffed, encased, pinned, etc. But I have a few butterflies on shelves and shoes of leather and sheepskins and on and on. But the lion, and butterflies, and whales and cheetahs and all the rest who were killed just to be stuffed and added to a collection... what is this thing we do?

    But I went to graduate school where there was an amazing Nature Lab filled with cross sections of plant material, bones, stones, taxidermed animals, live animals in tanks, strange creatures preserved in liquids - I learned things there. But I also wondered about the soul's of all those creatures. I'm both fascinated and uncomfortable with this practice of ours. I collect bones, feathers, dead butterflies and moths, a wing or two now and again, but if I find a whole, dead creature, I usually bury it, or offer it a prayer and know it will become food for the other forest creatures.

    Long comment! You've obviously touched on an issue I grapple with. I have no answers, and I'm taking those lion's eyes into the day with me....

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  5. I'm also fascinated and repelled with it too Valerianna. I also collect feathers, but this is different as birds moult don't they. However I also have a small case of moths which I bought in a charity shop. Seeing them there for such a small price, discarded in an old box, I felt I had to buy them to show their beauty off. It felt wrong not to.
    My second choice of Art college years back included Taxidermy in the course. I got offered my 1st choice so never had to deal with that. I often wonder what would have happened if I had went to that college? If it's an animal that has died naturally maybe it's a different matter. The whole issue is like opening a can of worms isn't it.

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  6. Your photos brought back visits to the Museum when I was a very small child. I felt that the animals were only waiting for the Museum to close before they stepped from their cases and moved around. I imagined their conversations. There was a huge woolly bison (I don't know if it's still there), and I remember standing next to this huge creature, and falling in love with it. Thank you for reminding me of these early memories.

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  7. I remember the moment of awe that I felt as I stood beneath the Whale, aged 12. That school trip accelerated the ongoing fascination I have with the world around me from that moment. Equally I recall the feeling of sorrow that I felt standing under that same whale aged 40+ when I took my children to the museum. I too feel that there is a dichotomy at the heart of these types of specimens. I remember loving the bird room at Leicester New Walk as a young art student, sketching bird after bird in the cases there. Like you I can just about cope with the fact that they are Victorian and Edwardian, that they deserve more than to be discarded. Yet what loss they represent.

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  8. He does look a little sad. I do agree with you on the taxidermy. What a marvellous building though.

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  9. So very sad...I inherited a Fox fur from my gran, he looked so scared and sad, so I gave him a burial in my garden, a very special corner
    You words for the Lion are very special
    Thea x

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    1. Thea that is such a lovely thing to do for the sad fox. x

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    2. ~ May I also add...Thea, this is beautiful and I would have done exactly the same.....I really would x

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  10. I love your tribute to the lion,
    Where I grew up in Santa Barbara there was is a wonderful Natural History Museum that housed flying birds, and other native fauna. I learned so much about animals and developed a lasting interest and care for them. It helps educate us; this keeping the animal frozen in time. When I think of all the hats that birds once decorated! and even the birds that meet their end flying into skyscrapers; at least these have been immortalized and appreciated and even written poems for~
    xx
    julie

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  11. Such beautiful and touching words, thank you for sharing them. Every year we go to the Wildlife Photographer of The Year exhibition and have to go through all the cases of stuffed birds and we always say a silent prayer for them. Just outside the exhibition there is a skeleton of a giant sloth which became extinct with the arrival of man. It brings tears to my eyes every time and has become a symbol to me of all we have lost due to not valuing it.

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  12. ~ Dear Karen...Each time we visit our capital, we take a trip to The natural History museum also....Your pictures capture the splendour so well...I kind of 'WISH' the museum could be like the movie, 'Night in the Museum'....you may have seen this......where all the animals and native American Indians come back to life again...~ Or who knows...may be this does happen when lights go out....hehe...thank you for your kindest comment..It really did make my day....~ Maria x

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    1. You know my son and I were thinking about night at the museum when we were walking around. I kind of wanted to get locked in. hehe x

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  13. When I'm making a piece I wait until the end to put the glass eyes in. To me it gives the piece life. After seeing this post I can see that a different life is given to these creatures. They seem to ask for another life, a second chance at it. None of them seem as fierce as they should...only more sad about what is in their present time and space. The taxidermists have captured that most definitely.

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  14. I love the owl and butterflies, but the building is amazing too! Heidi

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  15. ...this post is with way much sadness ~ thine words implore unto the universe for to bring an end to these olden energies ~ may the universe hear thine plea ~ blessed be dear kindred sister of mine heart...

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  16. I just nominated you for the Best Moment Award, check it out here http://moidutoiphotography.com/2013/05/13/best-moment-award-for-moi-du-toi-photography/

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  17. I so feel the sadness in the animals but know that their souls are at peace and happiness now, rejoicing in their eternity.

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