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UNT sophomore explores nature through bug taxidermy and bone art

UNT sophomore explores nature through bug taxidermy and bone art

UNT sophomore explores nature through bug taxidermy and bone art
December 04
12:30 2020

To some, a bug carcass is something that is immediately thrown away, but to fashion design sophomore Jerehmai Washington, it is the subject of his next project. Washington does bug taxidermy and bone art, something that he has been interested in his entire life. 

“I’ve tried on and off for several years, but only really last year did I start doing more and taking commissions,” Washington said. “I found pigeon bones one time and started cleaning them and learning about all the process of doing that, and branched out from there. There’s a lot of different ways when it comes to cleaning taxidermy and preparing it.”

Washington’s interest in working with bones and bugs stemmed from when he was younger.

“I just remember being really young and looking at animals that I happened to come across,” Washington said. “I used to live in Maryland and Virginia, so it was extremely mountainous, and if I could see anything I would examine it out of curiosity. Then it just kind of grew from there and I was like, ‘What if I can make art with that?’ because it’s apparently popular art and it branched into an interest of oddities in general.”

Washington said when making a bone art piece, he starts by degreasing the bones and letting them sit in water. He then adds hydrogen peroxide and lets it sit for a few days to whiten the bones. He then moves on to let the bones air dry and be ready for sale.

To find the necessary items for a piece of bone art, he either purchases the supplies or discovers them when hiking.

“A lot of times I do bring dishwashing gloves and trash bags and cleaning supplies because you never know what you might find,” Washington said. “[For] taxidermy, [you] just kind of go out wherever it is and see what you can find.”

There are specific laws restricting artists from using certain animals, so Washington said he focuses on getting bones from regular mammals who have started to decompose. 

Washington was self-taught in learning how to do bug taxidermy and bone art, with the support of research and experimenting, especially due to the level of chemicals used.

“It was years and years of research, and then just finally attempting it one day,” Washington said. “I used to live out in East Texas, so it made experimenting easier because there’s a lot of rural area. It just gave me that room to attempt to study it.”

History junior Aaron Lucas caught a 5-foot-10-inch alligator gar and gave it to Washington to taxidermy to commemorate Lucas’s experience of catching it.

“His interest in the macabre manifests most in his taxidermy art, and in my opinion, it makes it feel more authentic and less goofy [than] other similar artistic styles people try to lean toward,” Lucas said. “[I felt] elated — he did an absolutely amazing job preserving the skull.” 

Washington’s friends, such as Adelaide, Australia resident Nicholas Portmann, support his creative endeavors within his craft.

“I see his business as important for both being an expression of self, both of himself and customers, and an appreciation of animals and insects with a different approach,” Portmann said. “Unique pieces, such as his bone collar pins, are both [unconventional] and eye-catching, which can also help spread interest [and] awareness of his business for those who are into macabre aesthetics.”

Washington said he keeps going because of his constant interest in the art form. 

“It’s kind of niche,” Washington said. “It’s fun for me. It’s like a weird way of studying biology in a sense. It’s just very interesting [to see] the aspect of bones being held together. And then just dead art has always appealed to me — my friends joke about me being kind of gothy.”

Washington currently focuses on bugs and bones, but once he moves into a larger space, he hopes to expand to working with larger mammals. He also plans on branching out in his craft and curating broader pieces. 

Washington’s work can be viewed on Instagram @magnum_otic.

Featured Image: Sophomore Jerehmai Washington, @magnum_otic on Instagram, sits next to several pieces of their taxidermy art outside of the CVAD building on Nov. 8, 2020. Image by Meredith Holser

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Maria Lawson

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