Home All Articles Arts Seen LocalMike Calway-Fagen
March 30 2011 01:24 PM

The guy behind the dead animals on the front page of this week’s CityBeat

mikecalwayfagen
Mike Calway-Fagen and this week's cover art
When artist Mike Calway-Fagen set out to build “The Progression of Regression,” the work of art on this week’s cover of CityBeat, the first challenge was finding a stuffed dog.

“For most part, it’s taboo to mount domesticated animals,” he says.

Calway-Fagen searched everywhere. He even started looking toward Mexico and other countries. Eventually, he found exactly what he needed at an old mom-and-pop taxidermy spot in Alabama. He says the place is filled with abandoned, mounted pets. When animals die, apparently some people’s immediate, emotional response is to immortalize them by mounting their pets right away. But when the $2,000 bill comes around, some folks rethink things and abandon the poor, stuffed pooches and kitty-cats, which then become part of the taxidermist’s now-vast collection. Something about the regal, proud way the German shepherd was sitting attracted Calway-Fagen to that animal in particular.

The wolf-skin trophy upon which the stuffed dog is sitting was easier to find, and when Calway-Fagen put the two together, the effect was chilling, even shocking. But the artist’s intent wasn’t only to trigger the visceral reaction that comes with displaying remnants of dead animals; he says it’s more about exploring several concepts, ideas and associations.

“If you can look past that gut reaction, it’s a conversation,” he says. “The piece has brought up all kinds of discussions about subjects like animals rights and respect for the dead.”

But for the artist, the piece is more about death and decline. In fact, a lot of his work—which ranges from installations to drawings and photography—broaches those very subjects.

“The German shepherd as a domesticated animal—there is a very immediate human reaction to that image because we project human characteristics onto the dog, and there it is, sort of squishing it’s wild predecessor,” Calway-Fagen says, struggling, as many artists do, to put the meaning of his piece into one, clear and concise statement.

“In part, it’s about the decline of humans or that instinctual wild inside of us—the fact that we are all animals being suppressed by our own domestication.”


Mike Calway-Fagen’s work will be on view from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at UCSD Open Studios at the UCSD Visual Arts Facility (corner of Russell Drive and Lyman Avenue on the UCSD campus). His work will also be on view at Space 4 Art (325 15th St. in East Village) in a show opening from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 4.

Calendar

See all events on Friday, Aug 28