Christopher marley’s death.
Christopher marley saw the beauty of the dead: snakes, octopus, bedbugs. Others are also – his works are sold in high-end stores and displayed at the museum of art and natural history.
Scott Simon, host:
You can forget what you think you know about animal specimens. Oregon artist Christopher marley turned snakes, tropical fish and exotic insects into art. Now, 400 of his creatures are on display in big exhibitions outside Miami. Aaron Scott of Oregon public radio took us to marley’s studio.
AARON SCOTT, CNN: Christopher Marley is cleaning up the last few animals for his big show.
Christopher marley: I think we’re fine.
Scott:… When he realized he had forgotten to put a foot stand in the refrigerator.
Marley: it’s like a giant bug or potato bug, or hairy, depending on where you’re from.
Mary: that’s true. Yes, they do. They can do some harm. Some fish are caught, you know, they’re alive. They found huge feet in their throats or guts and ate them from the inside out. So they’re nightmares. That’s for sure.
Scott: they’re beautiful things in marley’s hands. He raises all kinds of wild animals and puts them in a white background frame. Like the color beetle of the mandrake. The snake was wrapped like a complicated pendant necklace. The macaw spread its wings over the rainbow. The devil fish are so generous with twisting and curling that they seem to be alive.
KENNETH FILCHAK: I don’t see anyone doing that.
SCOTT: Kenneth Filchak is a professor of biology at Notre Dame. He used marley’s work to inspire his students.
FILCHAK: he may be the Michelangelo of the declaration and preservation.
Scott: Mary wants to be an artist when she grows up. But his jaw and biceps were as talented as pythons, and he became a model. When he took pictures, he collected insects and arranged them into rainbow kaleidoscope. When marley’s fiance persuaded him to show off their orders at several stores in Los Angeles, the orders flew away. So he gave up modelling and began looking for sustainable collectors in the countries he visited. But his interest was deeper than that.
Mary: in my life, we always keep dead birds in the refrigerator.
Scott: marley’s father happens to be a breeder of rare color changes in Australian parrots.
Mary: my father couldn’t bear to throw these beautiful birds away. And then, when I realized that if my father did it with a bird, I bet you (laughter) most people deal with any type of organism – they like that they might do the same thing.
Scott: so marley set up a network of keepers, zoos, aquariums and importers and killed them. He is well aware that he USES only naturally killed stuffed specimens or catches and catches them. He won’t buy it from a hunter.
Marley: this is a green mamba.
Scott: the specimens eventually filled a warehouse in Salem, Oregon, and filled ice shelves at different stages of decay.
Marley: obviously all pythons, poisonous reptiles and little crocodiles.
Scott: to protect them, marley created a way of freeze-drying animals, and scientists usually keep them in the liquid, which is why they seem so active in the frame. He works in high-end shops and exhibits at the museum of natural history and art. His work appears on the cover of biology textbooks and marley’s own best-selling art books.
MARK PARKER: pheromones and Chris’s next book, Biophilia, are huge design references.
Parker’s theme and image: Chris inspired Nike’s design work in color and texture, providing Olympic athletes with high-performance sneakers and even a new interpretation of classic cars.
Scott: that’s right. U.S. athletes’ footwear at the 2016 summer Olympics was inspired by the image of marley’s sage buqueti members. By isolating these creatures from their natural environment, marley wants you to see them again.
Marley: I think the biggest force in this work is to help people be open to changes in nature. Once, when you have this feeling, my god, there’s more that I don’t know – I’ve never been able to experience this way – just to satisfy more and more desires.
Scott: for Christopher marley’s next project, he’s going deep into the Malaysian jungle looking for a body that has never been preserved. For NPR news, I’m Aaron Scott.