It seems impossible, given the intricacies and subtleties of the finished products, but Brooke Weston often doesn’t plan her pieces beforehand. Instead, the 37-year-old Los Angeles artist improvises her way through them, beginning with a piece of taxidermy and finishing with a half-animal, half-architectural sculpture that often straddles the line between wonderland and nightmare.
Dolores (2016) began as a taxidermied antelope, but when Weston acquired it, she immediately saw other possibilities. “I couldn’t help but imagine this miniature, toylike animal roaming in a fairy-tale kingdom with castles and fairies,” she says. She cut a hole in the hide – that material would go on to make a crown on the animal’s head – and outfitted the interior with a tiny purple sofa, a hand-painted portrait of the antelope itself, and a diamond-paned window reminiscent of Rapunzel’s tower. A spiral staircase leads up to the exposed room; amanita mushrooms (the classic red-and-white toadstools known for their hallucinogenic properties) pop up below. Weston sees the finished piece as a magical cottage brimming with hidden treasures.
The artist’s understanding of “fairy tale” is more Brothers Grimm than Disney, though; her pieces are shot through with darkness and danger. The unexpected juxtaposition of lifeless animal and dollhouse-scale whimsy accounts for some of the effect, but so, too, do the tinted fur and the sense of endless nooks and crannies where menacing creatures might lurk.