Murder is her business: Art shows stuffed animal crime scenes

Murder is her business: Art shows stuffed animal crime scenes
Photo by Jeanette May

One of her photos shows a severed head sitting on a kitchen floor amid scattered utensils, one eye peering up blankly — as stuffed animals tend to do.

Bushwick-based photographer Jeanette May said she took inspiration for her latest series — titled “Morbidity and Mortality” and opening April 26 at the A.I.R. Gallery in DUMBO — from popular TV crime dramas like CSI Miami, which she singled out for its luridly appealing cinematography.

“They have these beautiful images of dead bodies, beautifully laid out in dramatic locations and in beautiful colors,” said May, who laid stuffed toys out in poses borrowed from TV and the movies. “Death is becoming aestheticized. I’ve been interested in the fact that our culture finds violence and murder entertaining. There’s really this huge increase in the number of TV programs about crime, murder, and forensics.”

But May didn’t just want to shoot her own gruesome photos of artistically-offed cadavers—she wanted to make a statement about our fascination with the dead on display. Luckily, her cat helped her out.

“My friend bought this pet toy, a mouse, and it ended up lying on its back on the living room floor for days. And I just laughed, but at the same time it was kind of disturbing,” May recalled, adding that she aimed for the same effect in her pictures. “I hope one’s reaction is to be both amused and disturbed. Stuffed animals are very colorful, there’s something very funny about them all with their bodies all twisted. I hope they seem a little comical.”

Starting Thursday, photography fans can visit the A.I.R. gallery and ask themselves the question: “is this a crime scene, or did somebody’s pet just make a mess?”

“Morbidity & Mortality” at the A.I.R. Gallery. [111 Front Street in DUMBO, between Adams Street and Cadman Plaza E. (212) 255-6651] April 26, 11 am. Visit www.airgallery.org