Sidney Corcos is director of the Natural History Museum, Jerusalem, and a professional taxidermist. In the exhibition he presents death masks and body casts, an integral part of his work as a taxidermist—the artisan of the natural history museum. These objects are made of raw materials also found in the studio of a contemporary sculptor or artist, such as plaster and fiberglass.
In the 19th century death masks were customarily made of a person's face following death. The best-known mask is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. In order to make a death mask, a direct copy of the face is first created by smearing plaster on the animal's face. When it hardens, the negative mold is extracted, and a positive mold is created therefrom. Body casting is made through a similar process, by means of polyester fibers and various polymers.
In the taxidermist's studio one may find objects characterized by an authentic appearance and the freshness of an unstaged back region. Moustache bristles have clung to a lutra's white death mask; the facial expression of a desert fox abashedly smiling has been frozen and preserved. The body casts bear various markings and numbers, which have become painterly, aesthetic graphic elements.
Corcos's works vary in their definitions. Are they a part of a routine work process or rather—a work of art? The decision to present them in an art museum changes their initial context, raising them to the level of artworks.