Her delicate hanging installations confront us with the fragility of life, and with the finiteness of it. Frozen in time, dead foxes, crows, peacocks, deer and other creatures – often road-kill – populate Claire Morgan’s painstakingly labour-intensive work. Light plays a major role in her room-filling taxidermy installations, illuminating the seeds, insects and feathers that 'frame' the dead animals.
The Northern-Irish artist, who studied sculpture, began learning the craft of taxidermy some 10 years ago. "As such, taxidermy doesn't appeal to me, it never did. I was a vegetarian when I started, so I was completely unfamiliar with dead animals even in the kitchen. But back then I was working a lot with organic materials – fresh fruits, seeds, leaves, flower petals, and dead animals. I wanted to have full control over how these animals were positioned and how they would look, so I came to taxidermy as a means of achieving that." Morgan did an art residency where she learned to do taxidermy, and it was this learning process that led to it becoming important in her work.
"We cannot control the passing of time. Whereas my work kind of freezes time." (Claire Morgan)
Her installations make us question the world around us, and life in general. "In the Western world, death is very much a taboo. We like to think we’ll live forever. We want to pretend that we’re immortal and that death doesn’t affect us. The process of surrounding ourselves with more stuff is directly related to our unwillingness to confront the situation that we're animals and are going to die," Morgan says. "We cannot control the passing of time. Whereas my work kind of freezes time." The taxidermy animals in Morgan’s sculptures are stand-ins for all of us, mortal beings.
Despite the heavy existential questions her work evokes, the suspended taxidermy installations never appear to be frightening. Indeed, the apparent lightness and liveliness of such pieces is striking. "It’s light that brings the installation to life," she says. "Of course, for any artwork lighting is super important. For me, it’s especially important when I work with seeds, like dandelions or thistles. These installations are huge in a room, but without light it looks rather futile. Light changes all that." The shadows on the ground also play an important role, and demand that artist uses the light in a creative way.