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PHOTOS: Tour Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy

PHOTOS: Tour Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy

Marcia Field began learning taxidermy in 2014, as an apprentice at Dan’s Taxidermy & Wildlife Art on Madison’s north side. But it wasn't until she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2021 that she decided the time had finally come to open her own gallery, Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy.

With help from family and friends, Field, who passed away earlier this month, decked out the Bohemian, speakeasy-inspired gallery at 2716 Atwood Ave. exactly as she wanted. On the walls hang a dozen of her biggest pieces, which meld taxidermy and Surrealism.

Visitors can also check out her collection of preserved deer eyeballs and a range of jewelry made by Field and her assistant Adelaide Hurley, using tiny bones as beads. 

“I feel like Pharaoh making my tomb. I feel like I’m making my pyramid,” Field said of the process of creating the gallery. 

On Sunday, Oct. 2, at 4 p.m., the gallery will host a public celebration of life for Field. On Friday, Nov. 4, the gallery will be open for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Fall Gallery Night. Other visits can be scheduled by emailing Adelaide Hurley at ade.fenton@gmail.com.

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Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy, the studio and gallery of late artist Marcia Field, is located at 2716 Atwood Ave. in Madison.

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In an effort to protect Marcia Field from additional illness, a sign at the entrance of the gallery asks visitors to wear a mask.

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Before she passed away, Marcia Field was working on a 60-year-old wild boar as her newest piece of taxidermy art.

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Adelaide Hurley’s bone jewelry is displayed and sold at Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy. Hurley was an assistant and apprentice to gallery owner Marcia Field.

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“The Ascension/Tenth Life” by Marcia Field features a tabby cat Field picked up on the side of the road early in her taxidermy training, unaware that its face and skull weren’t salvageable. After a “spider web” of internal sewing to keep its body together, Field replaced its face with velvet and turned it toward the wall. That face is hidden as the cat, now on its “tenth life,” perches atop a late 19th century Catholic last rites kit, the type used to cleanse the dying of their sins. “Little did I know, as I worked on this elegant assemblage, I would be diagnosed with my own last rites, stage 4 terminal lung cancer,” Field wrote in her artist notes. “Life imitating art.”

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“Chipmunk with Nut” by Marcia Field features a glass jar filled with a taxidermy chipmunk and various nuts and bolts.

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“Goebbels’ Wet Dream/The Exterminator” is a cabinet of curiosities by Marcia Field that explores the sorts of evils that humans are capable of. In it, an elegant muskrat sits beside a can of Zyklon B – a pesticide and rat poison used in the Nazis’ gas chambers – and an array of Nazi propaganda used to perpetuate the idea that Jews were vermin. Field has Jewish and Italian heritage, and her husband’s grandmother would likely have been killed in the Holocaust if she hadn’t left Warsaw just before Hitler invaded Poland. That fact weighed on her, leading her to travel to the Nazi death camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2016 and to tattoo the date of her visit on her forearm.

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A unique collection of books sit on an end table in Marcia Field’s Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy studio and gallery.

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A sign posted in Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy gallery informs visitors how Marcia Field obtained the deceased animals used in her artwork.

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“Coyote Platter” by Marcia Field features a coyote’s head mounted on a silver platter that Field’s mother-in-law received as a wedding gift in the 1950s. Framing the coyote, Field attached wire wrapped with glossy strands of her son’s hair and strung with beads. The piece received a third-place award in the 2017 World Taxidermy Championships.

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“Nadine” by Marcia Field features a taxidermy raccoon splayed over a branch. The smaller branches are wrapped in hair and beads. The piece is named after an employee at A Beauty Supply in Madison who often helped Field experiment with synthetic hair colors and textures.

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Guest artwork by Angie Webster is displayed at Exquisite Corpse as well. Webster is the partner of Marcia Field’s mentor Dan Gartner, owner of Dan’s Taxidermy & Wildlife Art. Webster and Field became close friends.

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“Sacred Heart” by Marcia Field features a roadkill raccoon, which Field picked up on Williamson Street in Madison. Perched atop an industrial roof vent, the raccoon is holding a replica of Field’s first pacemaker and flanked by holy cards on ornate easels.

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“Call to Faith” by Marcia Field features a squirrel climbing the front of a 1930s telephone box. A note invites viewers to open the door to reveal the box’s velvet-lined interior, adorned with a rosary, a statue of Jesus as a child, and a silver holy water vessel, all illuminated when the viewer lifts the phone receiver. 

 

“Don’t forget to ring its bell,” Field wrote in the notes that accompany the piece. Below the box sits a silver vessel designed to hold holy water.

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“Ball Retainer” by Marcia Field features a raccoon holding a box of ball retainers from a 1950s Schwinn dealership. The taxidermy raccoon is mounted to a bicycle wheel.

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A variety of unique items, collected by Marcia Field, are organized in bins and boxes at Exquisite Corpse Taxidermy.

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“Down the Tubes” by Marcia Field features a taxidermy squirrel which spins inside of a 1946 Northern Electric tube radio.

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A collection of “looking glasses,” made by Marcia Field from preserved deer eyeballs, sits on a table in her gallery. Only the eyeball pictured on the left floated.

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Marcia Field’s lab coat is draped over her desk chair where she last left it, beside the wild boar she was working on in the weeks before she passed away on Aug. 13. 

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