Desiccated Squirrel – Likely Sciurus carolinensis
Natural preservation through desiccation
Desiccated squirrel mounted in red velvet with mahogany frame.
So, what is desiccation? In short it is “drying up” but of course this only happens with results such as this when environmental conditions are correct. Pieces like this are not created by me. Though desiccation can happen artificially, as the ancient Egyptians very successfully illustrated, this piece is a natural example of the same principal.
An accepted definition of desiccation is: The state of extreme dryness, or the process of extreme drying. A desiccant is a hygroscopic (attracts and holds water) substance that induces or sustains such a state in its local vicinity in a moderately sealed container. This is able to happen in cool dry conditions such as those that are found in abandoned buildings, or especially in artificially cooled conditions such as rooms left unattended and yet air-conditioned. The process of decomposition is a very misunderstood one. There are a lot of alternative outcomes other than dust to dust. Of course, this will always be the ultimate outcome.
There is something extraordinarily enigmatic about natural mummification. It recalls the similar process of fossilization, which in turn begs the imagination to see something frozen in time at the moment of its last breath. For me, this provokes a sort of reverence towards time. It’s a remarkably naturally unnatural view; as though the most intimate moment of any lifeform’s experience, being death, is drawn into public for all to reflect. The viewers are not there yet, but pieces like this demand a recognition of the statement, What you are now, we once were, what we are now, you shall become.
The squirrel in this was found in an abandoned house before renovations were to take place. It may seem a bit much to go to the effort of creating such a frame for something that would be disregarded by most, but in many ways that is the point.