Stuffed squirrels star in summer art show

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A student’s taxidermy animal party inspired by fairy tales, gentlemen’s clubs, Alice in Wonderland, Willy Wonka, and the Bible will go on display at the Goldsmiths, University of London BA Art and History of Art Degree Show (17-22 June 2021).

Image shows a taxidermy squirrel sitting at a table, looking excited by a Red Velvet cupcake

A squirrel ready for snacks (all photos: Zoey Andreas)

Garden of Eden, by Zoey Andreas, is a mixed-media installation comprising soil, wood, paint, sculpture, collage, plants, four deceased foxes, two rabbits, two squirrels, a woodcock, grouse, rabbits, moles, ducks, hares, a rat, a weasel, a kitten, a toad, and a frog, among other materials. 

All 28 taxidermy animals were made by Zoey and ethically sourced – meaning that the animals died naturally or are roadkill, rather than being intentionally hunted. 

The installation, which fills a large space in the Laurie Grove Baths studios on the Goldsmiths campus in New Cross, London, represents the evening before humans were created on the sixth day, as described in the Book of Genesis. 

Taxidermy animals are positioned in a rowdy social gathering within a multi-coloured neon garden, where they eat cake, drink tea and liquor, and enjoy themselves on miniature play equipment. 

A mole can be seen burrowing out of a tiny sofa, a toad frolics in a sink, hares relax in a baby’s cot, and foxes appear in animated discussion around a table. 

Zoey, 24, from Croydon, is a final year BA Art student in the Department of Art. A lifelong animal lover, she learned how to taxidermy after her sister gave her a voucher for a class as a Christmas gift, and then continued to teach herself. 

Zoey had previously created work for her A-Level art using blood and feathers from a bird, as well as a piece utilising a dead squirrel found in a park, which she preserved and presented in a box with human hair, achieving a Grade A. 

Garden of Eden, which Zoey describes as a “questionable idea of heaven” and a mix of “Insider and Outsider art that’s easy to access and enjoy” combines references to Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm stories, films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz, and the Bohemian Grove gentlemen’s club in California which was frequented by US presidents. It also takes inspiration from the artist’s former tiny studio flat in Paris where everything needed to live was packed into one room. 

Zoey Andreas said: “The home I have created is a world for the animals, before humans were created by God, with the mindset of the happy lives the animals would have if humans were not created at all. In the space the animals converse, and plan to change God’s mind on his so-called great idea to create the human species. 

“A lot of time and planning has gone into the installation, including collecting second-hand and recycled materials. I do my taxidermy at home, on the dining room table mostly. I started migrating to the kitchen and the garden towards the end as I was running out of space. You need access to water to wash the skins after and it can be messy, so it’s convenient to do at home. The home environment has inspired the warm homely vibe of the installation. I enjoy the process of taxidermy, seeing the animals transformed after cleaning, washing, and presenting… it gives them a new lease of life.” 

The BA Fine Art and History of Art Degree Show is an annual summer celebration of work by graduating students. The exhibition opens at 10am Thursday 17 June and closes at 7pm Tuesday 22 June. Entry is free and you do not need to register to attend. Face coverings and social distancing are required.