Friday, February 22, 2013

Acataphasia Immortalized

Tacoma artist on new TV series "Immortalized"

by Alec Clayton
The Weekly Volcano, Feb. 21, 2013

Acataphasia Grey. Photo by Allan Amato/AMC
AMC's “Immortalized” may be the most bizarre new show on TV, and Acataphasia Grey may be the strangest and most fascinating artist in Tacoma. Put them together and you’ve got a half hour of televised art that Tacomans should not miss. 

Acataphasia, who goes by “Cat,” is a taxidermy artist. She sees what others may call grotesque — roadkill, for instance, and strange hybrid creatures —as beautiful. Tacoma’s art audience was first introduced to Grey when she did an installation in an empty building in Opera Alley called “Tea for Short  Expectations.” Seen through peepholes in the window were reworked taxidermy animals not found in nature, and stuffed animals with more than the normal number of eyes and limbs. “I created this installation so that you can see one of the secret places where mutant animals meet to drink tea, or wine, or whatever it is that mutant animals drink,” Grey said. 

She describes Immortalized  as being like “Iron Chef” but with taxidermy instead of cooking. It’s an unscripted reality show. Each episode features an Immortalizer (a traditional taxidermist) facing off against a Challenger (a non-traditional or “rogue” taxidermy artist). Grey will, of course, be the challenger. Her episode airs March 7 at 10 p.m. Pacific time.

Each contestant is given an assignment and a theme, and about five weeks to go away and create their rogue creature. The judges include Paul Rhymer, the head taxidermist from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; a woman artist from L.A. who creates gallery artworks involving dead canaries; and a stand-up comedian.

Grey says she can’t divulge what the assignment was. We’ll have to tune in to see what kind of weird or provocative creature she may create. She was, however, allowed to tell us what the theme was: “Your Worst Nightmare.” She said that when she heard the theme she was waiting for someone to step out with a gun.

The production company “started hearing about road taxidermy” in late 2010, Grey explained, and went online and found her website and contacted her. She didn’t think it was for real at first. She says she often gets calls from independent film producers wanting her to make some kind of stuffed animal, and even though she goes ahead and makes them the films never get made. “I almost crawled under the couch when I Googled them and found out it was a real network show.”

Taxidermists can buy forms for different kinds of animals. Upon these forms they build the animals using skins of dead animals. She uses roadkill. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to kill something just to use the skin,” she says. She loves animals, all kinds of animals dead or alive, and thinks they are beautiful. All her friends know to text her with roadkill locations, ask before throwing out a perfectly good rat or mouse, and they often bring her their pets when they die.
She was given the assignment for the “Immortalized” segment in mid-September, but she lost the blank animal form she was going to use, and by the time she got it back she had only a week left to complete it.

I highly recommend visiting Acataphasia Grey’s website before watching the show in order to get a bit of an idea what to expect and see why she has been called “The Queen of Morbid Chic.” And then mark your calendars for March 7at 10 p.m. to see her challenge an Immortalizer. 

Acataphasia Grey would like to say that she was raised by wolves, but in reality she was raised under a rock. Face-down. Growing up in Australia, where for some time her best friend was, in fact, a tree, she was the only person in her class to get the gestation period of humans wrong…by three months. After failing to be killed by a startling array of animals (and one plant), she moved back to the US where she moved up in the world, as evidenced by her new high-school best friend, a 2,000-pound boar named Maynard. Eventually she realized that you really can quit your day job and make art if you are willing to mostly live in other people’s basements and are good with plants.

Her first love and enduring art theme is animals: from the Mutant Stuffed Animal Of The Month Club founded by Neil Gaiman in 2002 to her “dry” taxidermy work, she simply adores them and doesn’t stop adoring them just because they have died. All her friends know to text her with roadkill locations, ask before throwing out a perfectly good rat or mouse, and they often bring her their pets when they die. She considers herself blessed.

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