RALEIGH, North Carolina--"It didn't start out as a commentary about hunting," explains Raleigh artist, Chenoa Hill. Hill's referring to the offbeat landscape of mounted paper mache animal heads she created for her October show at Simkin Studio. "But that's kind of what it's turned into," she added.
To be clear, nothing about Hill's "Head Cases" is even remotely reminiscent of the dingy taxidermy relics most of us have become strangely accustomed to running into. Sure. They're animal heads. And yes, they're mounted on wood. And oh alright, they're hanging on walls, but that's where the similarities end, I swear.
For one thing, when's the last time you saw the head of a winged cobalt-colored land animal hanging on anyone's wall? Vibrant, blue, and just a little intense, Hill's peacock is both delicate and confident, its gaze warning potential buyers that they may need a little birdseed and an experienced scarecrow to get safely through the first few nights. Not that the bird doesn't seem friendly enough. It's just that he doesn't seem, you know, dead. He's clearly seeking attention. The longer you stare at him, the longer he's just going to sit there and stare back at you. Your mother may have warned you about individuals like this, and even so, you just can't seem to turn away. Hill's fox, deer and assorted birds are just as mesmerizing.
And when's the last time you seriously wanted to take a mounted animal head-thingy home with you? Half of Hill's show has already sold, and future shows are in the works. "I think the thing that has meant the most to me, is people's reactions. They walk in, they see the heads, and they smile," Hill explains. Personally, I think it's because they're at least a little relieved that an ethical dilemma has already been decided for them.
There's just something about Hill's animal heads that, whether it was her intention or not, doesn't make the other kind of hanging heads look very good. Maybe the feeling of joy comes from the fact that animals weren't destroyed for the show, but rather created in earnest. Hill's show runs through October at Simkin Studio, at 718 Lane Street in Raleigh.