Meddling With Nature: The craft of artistic taxidermy

Meddling With Nature: The craft of artistic taxidermy
Posted at 9:31 AM, Feb 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 09:31:03-05

Warning: Some of these visuals may be upsetting for some readers and viewers. Please use your own discretion.

COVINGTON, Ky. -- From the creepy and crawly to cute and furry, Jeremy Johnson handles animals of all kinds, ranging from venomous snakes and rare birds to insects and people’s pets.

But all of the animals he encounters have one thing in common: They're dead.

More than a decade ago, Johnson started the Covington-based company Meddling With Nature, which he describes as a business that focuses on the "advancement of naturalism." This includes photography, educational workshops, exhibitions and, most notably, taxidermy services.

The Kansas-native attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he fostered a passion for medical illustration and human anatomy. He operates out of his Northern Kentucky home, which he has turned into a fully equipped workshop.

But Johnson's taxidermy has a unique style, which makes his work stand out.

"In a lot of ways you can consider it gallows humor," Johnson said. "Morticians have a terrible sense of humor — lots of puns. I think it’s because it’s difficult to talk about these things so we talk about it in euphemism, and euphemism turns into pun."

Tap or click on image for photo gallery:

Tap or click on the image for photo gallery. Photos by Emily Maxwell | WCPO

He incorporates humor into most of his projects. Often his subjects are in funny poses or cartoon-like expressions.

"We’re working on a cat right now that needs to be dressed like hamlet holding a skull — it’s own skull. We’re really excited about that."

Aside from local businesses and people's pets, his company has been commissioned for films and television shows, including "Dusk to Dawn," "Skin," a commercial for Desperado beer -- and even a Ralph Lauren fashion show.

Meddling With Nature is currently working on an exhibit with the Lloyd Library for which they are recreating plates by famous Netherlands naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian from her 1705 book "Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium." One of the biggest pieces for this show includes two caimans, a large snake, insects and plants. An opening reception will be held at the Lloyd Library on March 24 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

The faint of heart can be rest assured that the company only works with animals who have died of natural causes or 'road kill' found in the area.

Johnson believes the best way to honor these animals is to preserve them. Explore the world of artistic taxidermy through Johnson's own words and take a peek inside his new project with the Lloyd Library in the video embedded below.

WATCH BELOW: "Behind the Scenes with Meddling With Nature" by Emily Maxwell