Behind Mothmeister is a Belgium-based duo who creates creepy portraits of grotesque characters in elaborate costumes and terrifying masks accompanied by taxidermied animals. “We portray anonymous, ugly masked creatures as a reaction against the dominant exhibitionism of the selfie culture and beauty standards marketed by the mass media,” they explain. For more check out the interview below and visit their etsy shop and insta profile.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
Mothmeister creates a surreal fantasy world reincarnating dead animals
into post-mortem fairy tales.
Whom do you look up to?
Our favourite artists showcasing taxidermy are Les Deux Garçons (adorable, fragile animal
sculptures) – Polly Morgan’s wonderful world – Julia Devill’s jewel pieces – Pascal Bernier’s wounded animals – the controversial Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere and mechanical taxidermy artist Stan Wannet. And of course The Victorian dioramas of Walter Potter have always been inspiring. We also adore the photographs of Cindy Sherman, Joel-Peter Witkin, Floria Sigismondi and the controversial art of Paul McCartey.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your way of thinking?
We’ve done quite a few collaborations with other artists like the French amazing headpiece designer Candice Angelini, the Russian fashion designer Polina Yakobson, the UK based taxidermist Adele Morse known for her anthropomorphic taxidermy (like the famous stoned fox) and the UK based textile/mixed media artist Annie Montgomerie. Each of them contributed to what Mothmeister is today. Those people not only inspire, they have a influence on the characters that go with the stuffed animals. On the way they look. On the way they behave.
How did your art career start?
We both were already creative in our childhood: drawing, painting, writing. Creating
our own fantasy world. We met eachother as teenagers in Arts school – an instant match – and both graduated. The transformation into our alterego ‘Mothmeister’ naturally grew through the years – simultaneously with our exploding collection of taxidermy, masks & costumes. We’ve always been collecting stuff from thrift stores & curiosity shops. A long time ago we visited an exhibition of Edward Kienholz, whose art was a mixture of junk & taxidermy. It inspired us – being poor art students at the time- to decorate our home ‘Kienholz’-style. Living daily in this mad stuffed junk-jungle inspired us. And so we created our own surreal fantasy world called ‘Wounderland’.
Styling by © Polina Yakobson
What was your favourite project and why?
For our collaboration with the talented London based fashion designer Polina Yakobson (image above) we went to England the day the UK’s terror threat level had been raised to ‘severe’ due to conflicts in Iraq and Syria. As we were shooting in the stormy weather nearby a nuclear plant at the Dungeness coastal wasteland, littered with old fishing boats and rusty train rails, the armed police was patrolling. Apparently we were acting so suspicious, we got chased away.
Another remarkable moment was when we had the opportunity to collaborate with the amazing taxidermist Adele Morse (image below). Her controversial anthropomorphic stoned fox is a real celebrity within the world of taxidermy, which we’ve been admiring for a long time. Posing with her stoned fox was definitely an honour and therefore unforgettable. The weather was pretty nasty. We choose one of the ugliest beaches of Essex for this shoot. We got stuck in the mudflats and got wet in the freezing rain, but we enjoyed every second.
Stoned fox by © Adele Morse
The following image was shot in Reinhardswald, a primeval forest in Germany covering over 200 km². It’s known for its myths and legends. It’s the place that inspired the Grimm brother’s Fairy Tales. After we did our shoot in a snow storm, we got lost pretty fast in the fading light, got spooked by strange noises coming out of the woods and walked for hours hoping to find our car again. It was already pitch dark when we saw some kind of house in the midst of the forest. As we approached, we rang the bell of what turned out to be an asylum for elderly people. The moment we walked through with our mask and costume, it seemed like the old people – chewing on their late night diner – could have a heart attack any moment.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
Only dead fish go with the flow.
How do you define creativity?
Creativity is a way to express your vision. I guess we see beauty in ugly things, in the abnormal, in decay. We’re bringing things together that aren’t meant to be which ends up in a disruptive, uneasy world.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
Be yourself. Don’t copy. Follow your gut-feeling. Be controversial. Cause if people don’t react to your stuff, it means it’s worthless.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion for art?
There’s no reason to give up our passion for art. We’ve always created and always will.
Our brain seems to errupt nonstop. It will never be a dormant vulcano.
Monkey doll by © Annie Montgomerie
Post-mortem mask by © Candice Angelini
Headpiece ‘Freyja’ by © Candice Angelin
Headpiece ‘Alma’ by © Candice Angelini