Given Huang Yong Ping’s choice to create an elephant out of concrete, steel, and cowhide–rather than use an actual preserved pachyderm–I was surprised to meet Brad Reddick in the Walker galleries last week. Reddick runs Mid-America Taxidermy in Savage, Minnesota, where he’s stuffed all kinds of animals, including giraffe, hippopotamus, cape buffalo, and deer (no domestic animals; of memorializing Fido he says he’ll “leave that to the other guys”). He was called in by the Walker Registration department to seal small gaps caused by the shrinking of the sculpture’s cowhide skin and to replace the claws on the tiger (also a replica, covered with painted rabbit fur). But what does a taxidermist know about repairing fake animals?
Plenty, he says. The work he performed on Huang’s piece last week used both skills and materials–epoxy and fiberglass resin–he became familiar with through other projects, chief among them building replicas for zoos and natural history museums. A faux tree, constructed entirely of epoxies, can be seen at the Minnesota Zoo, and Reddick’s artificial habitats–the dioramas on which mounted animals appear–are integrated into displays at the Sioux Falls Zoo and Museum.
Will he be there when the exhibition opens Sunday? Probably not; it’s hunting season after all.