Beautiful isn’t it? Doesn’t it just soothe your soul? Doesn’t it make you want to skin a dove? What?
I’m sure most of you by now have seen Tiffany Bozic’s work. She’s quite popular (at least) in the art/design blogging world, and rightfully so. She is constantly working to explore the medium, but has consistently remained true to her unique aesthetic. A large portion of her exhibited work focuses on ‘the intricacies of nature’ and ‘dives deeply into the imaginary and darker aspects of the natural world.’
Which makes sense when considering this: Tiffany Bozic is a bird skinner… How-awesome-is-that!?! I recently had the pleasure of asking Tiffany a few questions about her job and it’s influences on her work. Check it out after the jump!
I guess I’ve always just needed a lot of time alone to work out my ideas. It became a habit before I can remember. I used to love playing music as much as I loved drawing and painting. I felt I could visualize an emotional score of music, and I still see myself as a musician or composer in a way, but felt at the time that I had a greater ability to transfer my emotions visually. By my early 20’s I realized I couldn’t function without dedicating myself completely to my work. I’m still constantly challenged by my medium though. I think that a sense of dissatisfaction is healthy and admire artists that get bored easily and venture into the unknown. By doing this they can share a small window into this personal yet universal inner struggle. This is life.
Each vision comes to me with a very different approach and attitude from the next. Sometimes I have to allow it to percolate for months – I have to almost ease it out. Other times they come to me like a light breeze or it can even feel like a dropping piano. I just have to be ready to receive it. Since the technique that I have developed has become quite time intensive I keep several notebooks near by and scribble sort of codes to myself to remember. From there I take the strongest candidates and push and pull them into drawings or watercolor studies. Finally, I redraw them large scale onto maple panels and begin painting. Depending on the amount of detail it can take me anywhere from 1 week to 2 months or so to technically execute each painting.
I have painted quite a lot of people actually, and am planning to again in the future. The last couple years, I have been more interested in trying to find timeless and universal examples found in nature as my subjects to metaphorically portray human emotion. The way that we relate to each other is very complex and so trying to find my own language to discuss our struggle for existence has been very challenging and rewarding. Inevitably when painting a human you must assign it a gender, an age, a race – these automatically create boundaries. So by starting with a neutral subject I hope that anyone anywhere can relate and find a personal sense of discovery in my paintings.
This will be a longwinded answer! Skinning is a sensitive subject because inevitably no matter my explanation, some people will react very strongly. To begin, I am sort of weaved into California Academy of Sciences in many ways. I initially came in to work off the collection for my reference material then spent a year as the first Artist in Residence in the Invertebrate Zoology and Geology department with a large community of biologists to build an exhibit on the public floor of the museum (http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/air/). I also met my husband who is curator for Birds and Mammals there. I have gained so much from this incredibly fascinating community, so I try to help out in any way I can by preparing specimens for their museum collection. You can read more about what I’m talking about here.
Because every bird is quite different from one species to the next, skinning is actually quite difficult to master. But if done correctly the collection can hopefully inform future generations about what it is that we are trying to protect. I try to take every opportunity I can to get as close to nature as I can. I think being around these animals when they are alive is ideal, but understanding their anatomy really helps improve the quality of my work.
Since it is quite labor intensive I’ll just briefly explain the basic technique of skinning: First, you record all the data: the weight and size, where it was found, etc. Then you cut a slit in the belly of the bird and turn the skin inside out like a sweater, pull out the skeleton, then you clean all the meat and tissue off the skin, fold it back again, then finally stuff it full of cotton, sew it up and preen the feathers. Easier said then done, it usually takes me about 6 or so hours to do one bird but I am an amateur. Although, true bird collectors like Rollo Beck could do it in 5-10 minutes.
I think it depends. Most of the birds that come in are salvage. They ran into a window or were road kill, etc. Sometimes people bring in something they found on the side of the road and it has been baking there in the hot sun for several hours. At this point the birds actually become quite difficult to do anything with because the feathers slip right off the skin, in which case we may only be able to save the skeleton or skull for the alcohol-preserved collection. We really try to do whatever it takes to save as much of it as we can. If you can turn it into something beautiful and educational it can be quite rewarding in the end.
It’s the other way around actually. I am very fortunate to be able to paint full time. I volunteered to skin for the Academy quite often over the past year but I had to give it rest because I had so many deadlines this summer. To be honest, I don’t see any direct benefit that my painting has on my skinning other than my obvious interest and attention to detail. Another reason I skin other than for my work, is so I can help my husband out in the field. This way when he travels all over the world to wild places to study birds and mammals I get to go with him to take my own photo reference. It all comes back around full circle.
I like the diversity of working with different species. I enjoy painting whatever interests me at the time, that being said I have painted a lot of hummingbirds. I also love Frogmouths and Kingfishers. I would never eat any of these though