Tom Morphet
Artist Andrea Nelson shows off her piece, “Sitka Black Tail – Late August.

Andrea Nelson’s work was among 16 creations chosen from among 897 recent submissions to the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank.

The bank, organized by the Alaska Council on the Arts, provides a circulating collection of Alaskan artwork to exhibit in public buildings throughout the state.

Nelson’s piece, titled “Sitka Black Tail – Late August,” is a piece of “fabric taxidermy,” starting with a taxidermy form Nelson sheathed in a variety of fabrics and topped by antlers donated by a local hunter.

Nelson has previously worked on assemblages of found objects, creating art by arranging toys, coins and other pieces of interest or curiosity.

The piece chosen by the art bank is about her 10th piece of taxidermy art, which include rabbits, bears and a moose mount titled “Old Cannonball” that now hangs over the fireplace in a lodge tap room in Golden, Colorado.

The moose was commissioned after the Colorado lodge owners discovered Nelson’s art on the Internet, where Nelson had taken sales after the Main Street art gallery she co-owns was closed by COVID-19. She used Pendleton blankets and a Southwest design to fit the piece into its High Plains home.

“That (commission) kind of roped me into attacking larger pieces and getting a pre-made form,” unlike her previous mounts she made through a paper-folding technique.

Her deer is clad in a hand-stitched patchwork of fabrics including crewelwork designs from an old tablecloth. “For fabric I use lots of random sources – found fabric, clothing, upholstery samples – but I like antique-looking stuff and upholstery the most.”

Her deer’s nose is sculpted from paper clay and eyes were from a taxidermy supply company.

Nelson said she hand tailors found fabrics to emphasize patterns and natural lines of animals. Although she uses other taxidermy mounts and other information to approximate dimensions, Nelson said she also likes to retain some creativity as a piece comes into form.

“I’m interested in taxidermy and I’m playing with that idea, which interests me. Which assemblages you put next to which, (the piece) has a story that can be told with colors and with symbolism,” Nelson said.

She describes the final product as hunting trophy and cultural object. “As both a subsistence hunter and someone who spends months, through this art medium, appreciating each curve and nuance of their shape, I can somehow be both a deer’s cause of death and source of veneration,” she wrote in a statement to the art bank.

Residents can see “Sitka Black Tail – Late August” at this week’s First Friday art event before it’s shipped off to Anchorage.