[Editors’ Note: This coming weekend, we’ll be touring Brooklyn for GO Open Studios, an event in which visitors vote on which artist they feel deserves to get an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. As a service to both ourselves and other readers, we’ve scoured the event’s pages for the most promising studios and then sent those artists an email with a few questions about their work. The following posts relay what they told us.]
If you flipped through the GO website at all, chances are you stopped at Takeshi Yamada’s page. So many great things here: the all-business headshot; the Coney Island hometown; the Renaissance-style murals of mythical creatures; the taxidermied sea rabbit; the conjoined twin Mona Lisa with an added Takeshi Yamada head.
We found out that Takeshi is an acclaimed taxidermist (part of the society of Minnesota Rogue Taxidermists, along with Nate Hill), he’s taught at the Museum of Natural History, his work has been exhibited worldwide, and he boasts a highly impressive honors and awards list. He’s been awarded the keys to both New Orleans and Gary, Indiana. He’s a fan of old tuxedos as casual wear. Obviously, we needed to talk to this guy.
NAME: Takeshi Yamada
STUDIO: 1405 Neptune Avenue
TIME IN BROOKLYN: 13 years
Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born and raised at a traditional and respectable house of samurai in Osaka, Japan in 1960. As an international exchange student of Osaka Art University, I moved to the United States in 1983 and studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD in 1983-85, and completed a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 1985.
Are you showing your work in galleries?
Yes, I am currently showing my work in Shinsen Art Gallery (Chicago, IL), Pelts Gallery (Milwaukee, WI), Coney Island Hospital, and Parlor Gallery (Asbury Park, NJ). I am also featured in over 400 YouTube videos made by people all over the world. Also, I was featured in two French magazines and one Canadian book this year alone.
Why are you participating in GO?
I was recommended it by another Brooklyn artist.
You are an acclaimed taxidermist. How did you get into the practice? Do you work with a taxidermy community?
I am not a taxidermist. I am a “super artist” who happens to use dead animals’ body parts as art supplies—just like Danimen Hirst, who never calls himself a taxidermist. I am a member of MART (Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists). People call my artworks “rogue taxidermy.” I am one of the most media-featured artists in the United States. Every month, new YouTube videos are created by fans of my artworks around the world. Every year, over a dozen TV shows, magazines, and books feature my artworks.
You’ve taught at the Museum of Natural History. What were you teaching?
[There was a] rogue taxidermy demonstration and show for one day, and a lecture and show for another day.
Your interest in cabinets of curiosities fits nicely with your hometown of Coney Island. Do the surroundings inspire your work? If so, how?
At one time, Coney Island was much bigger than Disney World, Six Flags, and Hollywood, combined. Coney Island was literally the center of entertainment, culture, and the universal hub where the most spectacular beauties, curiosities, oddities, monsters, and marvels were gathered from around the world to satisfy the human mind, intellect, and imagination.
With this in mind, I have created over 500 post-super-realism and neo-taxidermy artworks simulating the treasures of the cabinet of curiosities. Examples of them are 6′ tall Fiji Mermaids, a 5′ tall Chupacabra, 32′ long giant sea serpents, dragons, two-headed babies, shrunken human heads, fossilized fairies, nuclear radiation giant stag beetles of Bikini Atoll, Canadian hairy trout, New York City giant subway bugs, king tarantulas, Mongolian giant death worms, two-headed snakes, four-legged turkeys, vampire monkeys, Chinese flesh-eating mushrooms, a two-headed and six-fingered alchemist, human-faced insects, artifacts of the Dreamland Fire of 1911 in Coney Island, relics of ancient civilizations, sea rabbits of Coney Island, giant prehistoric horseshoe crabs, alien specimens collected by the Area 51 US military base, and Coney Island-brand exotic canned foods, among many others. With my collection of curious, odd and mysterious specimens, artifacts and artworks at Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders, I want to celebrate one of the primal desires of human nature, which seeks the mystery and wonders of the universe.