Hailing from Belgium, Mothmeister is a boyfriend / girlfriend duo of self-professed “weirdos” with a passion for taxidermy. One an art director, the other a graphic designer and photographer, they created Mothmeister as a creative outlet.
The result: wild pairings of whacky characters and their companion pets that remind you of your weirdest festival memories, your nuttiest nightmares, and the wickedest circus acts. What started as a fun weekend project soon went viral, and I had to know more. I got the chance to pick their brains about their work:
Where are you from? How did your childhood affect your art?
We’re both from the town of Antwerp, located in Belgium, the home of Surrealism.
Surrealism has always been in our DNA. We didn’t know each other as children, but we had similar childhoods. We didn’t like to hang around with other kids. Pretty independent characters. We spend most of the time hidden in our bedrooms or in the attic, getting creative with painting or drawing, writing stories and lyrics, dissecting dolls, creating burlesque doll outfits and stuff. That’s where our creative minds started to bloom. We both had a lot of dark fantasy, fed by dreams & nightmares, which translated into Mothmeister.
Do you have separate roles in the process?
We’re like siamese twins, doing almost everything together: we both come up with ideas, styling, we’re browsing around in thrift shops and in cyberspace, feeding our addiction of collecting taxidermy, weird costumes and masks. The only time we seperate is when the female gets behind the camera and the male gets shot. Sometimes we do switch roles, but most of the times it’s the guy that has the pleasure to nearly suffocate in rubber masks.
How did you come up with your process?
The process naturally grew through the years. We’ve always been collecting stuff from thrift stores & curiosity shops. A long time ago we visited an exhibition of Edward Kienholz, whose sculptures & environments involve a mix of junk & taxidermy. It inspired us – being poor art students at the time – to decorate our home ‘Kienholz-style’. Taxidermy was very unpopular, stuff from dusty attics & moist cellars, so it was dirt cheap. People who inherited pieces threw them away as worthless junk, but we rescued them from the garbage & gave them a new life. We dressed them up as post-mortem fairy tale personas. Mix those reïncarnated stuffed animals with our collection of masks and crazy costumes and you’ve got all the ingredients for Mothmeisters’ Wounderland’.
What kinds of materials do you use?
Obviously we use a lot of dead animals and old musty secondhand clothes. Our favourites are fur, worn leather, and creepy antique dresses. We combine that with objet trouvé-like stuff, altered or selfmade masks. We love medical props like old bandages, prosthetic limbs and raw materials like jute. We often search for accesories in nature, like branches.
What are you most inspired by?
Our inspiration comes mostly from our own imagination, dreams and nightmares. Most ideas are born out of intuitivity, rather then out of rational thinking. Of course we’re also influenced by other forms of art (photography – sculpture – video – music – cutting edge fashion). We also love wandering around in Natural History Museums, Curiosity shops, and Wunder Cabinets full of deformed animals or hoaxes like the fuji mermaid, which can all be pretty inspiring.
Do you create your character first or the animal?
Most of the time the character comes first, and then we see which animal matches: the best stuffed sidekick available.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
We hope to inspire others: just do what you like to do, even if it might be weird.
The anonymous, ‘ugly’ masked creatures and scruffy stuffed misfits are a commentary on the modern-day exhibitionist selfie-culture and the beauty standards marketed by the mass media. There’s this strong obligation of everybody looking like the perfect barbie doll, which is ridiculous and boring. There’s a lot more character & beauty in imperfection, in the weird.
Being anonymous and masked is a reaction against the big brother society. There are enough cameras everywhere, focusing on our faces. So we like to hide ours, as a comfort zone.
What do you think about your peers in the taxidermy art world?
We’re glad that there seems to be a taxidermy revival nowadays.
Taxidermy has been longtime very controversial (at least in Belgium).
We see taxidermy as a respectful art, in which dead animals get a second life.
Lately we see a lot of artists creating wonderful stuff with mounted animals.
Like Les Deux Garçons (adorable, fragile animal sculptures) – Polly Morgan (wonderful installations) – Julia Devill (jewel pieces), etc.
Do you have any advice for other artists?
Do whatever your gut tells you to do.
Are you not obsessed? Find more of Mothmeister below: