Dead Animal Foundlings

I have a strange hobby….. I collect dead animals.

I don´t actually take their little rotting corpses home with me and cuddle them at night or anything. I take photographs of them. It all started when I was living in Bristol, England, and whilst walking alongside the canal, I came across the most curious thing… the wingspan of a bird with all of the feathers attached but the rest of the body and bones picked completely clean as carrion. I had a fancy new phone that had a camera built right into it (this was circa 2008, and I´m slow to adapt to communication technology in any case). I absolutely had to take a photo!

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was no stranger to coming across rotting animal corpses, but I never took much notice of them. With that first “Dead Animal Foundling” photo (which my sick little mind loving calls “KFC”) I had triggered something in my mind. I became fascinated and completely tuned into the presence of dead animals. Whenever possible, I took photos and ferreted them in various photo libraries and hard drives.

Then, when I was in Salzburg, Austria (doing my Mozart pilgrimage), I came across one of the most exquisite of my collection! Right there in Mozartplaz was a decapitated bird otherwise fully intact. More impressive, however, was the pattern of the blood splatter, which (to me) looks likes the beginnings of a treble clef.

I decided to dig out as many of these Dead Animal Foundling photos as I could find and share them with the morbidly inclined. I recently made a video for youtube set to my track “MirrorrorriM,” which I think accompanies it nicely in strangeness.

“MirrorrorriM” is from my album The Unforgivable, the Unforgettable, which was an experimental album that was recorded in one night in front of a live audience, but with all of the starts, stops and fits of a typical recording session.

The Formaldehyde Paintings

Album artwork is important to me. I consider it part of the entire album experience, and in the digital age, I believe now more than ever that the aesthetics and visuals associated with an album are extremely important.

For my fourth album, a 4-song EP, I chose songs having to do with the wretchedness of love. I decided that instead of conventional album artwork with photography of or by myself, I would do acrylic-on-canvas paintings depicting four hearts in various stages of misery, rot and decay.

A heart split in two, half perfect and half melting into a puddle.

The first song on the album is “Love Always Dies.” I did a highly textured painting achieved largely by using matchsticks instead of paintbrushes. The left half is a typical, pristine heart that the likes of Lisa Frank would conjure up. The right of the painting shows a grotesque whithering away, the flesh melting into a puddle showing its own idealised reflection. A reflection which is considerably different from the reality.

A heart standing in the desert, bent over and crying a river.

“The Dark and the Blue and the Grey” is the second song on the EP. Although it appears to be the most simplistic of the paintings, it was actually the most challenging for me. The painting shows a heart stood in a desert, bent over and crying a river. Having no training in art what-so-ever, I found portraying a heart bent over – whilst still be recognisable as a heart – to be quite difficult. The large white star was also painted using matchsticks to achieve a textured look.

A heart with a zipper in front of a black and white circular vortex image. The heart is half unzipped.

“Big Hearts” is a more Kate Bush type of track with a big somewhat cheery sound (given the context of my brand of misery). The lyrics, however, are slightly political dealing with the “givers and takers” of life. I decided that this heart, rather than being broken or damaged by another entity, would be intentionally unzipping itself in two. For me, I feel the song has a slightly retro feel to it, and being a lover of music from the 1960’s, I went with a trippy black and white background.

Gangrenous, green heart rotting inside of a chest cavity.

In my opinion, the best song on the album is “Amputation of a Heart,” which is also my favourite of the five paintings. In keeping in line with the lyrics, this heart was literally a green, gangrenous heart exposed through an open chest cavity and in the process of amputation.

I wasn’t finished with my paintings, however! I still needed one for the album cover, something to tie all of the paintings together. I envisioned a witch doctor like laboratory and a jar of formaldehyde with a heart inside…. hence the album title. The album title and the miniature heart paintings floating inside of the jar were added with Photoshop later.

A jar of the heart paintings sitting on a table. A book shelf and herb drying rack in the background.

Anyone who orders “Formaldehyde” directly through me receives high resolution jpeg files of the four Formaldehyde paintings plus the album cover with full permission to print the images for personal use or decoration.

You can get a free download that includes a Formaldehyde track here.