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Alumnus Puts Sideshow Art at the Forefront

Takeshi Yamada ’85 has created several pieces which he describes as "rogue taxidermy"

Posted 09.01.12 by mica communications

Takeshi Yamada '85 in front of some of his taxidermy creations. (Photo by Leslie van Stelten)

To most of his fans, Takeshi Yamada '85 is known for creations that fall under the category of "rogue taxidermy," representing mythical creatures, hybrid animals, and other imaginative sideshow artworks. Known throughout the world, he has shown in more than 600 fine art exhibitions and his artwork can be found in more than 30 books and 400 online videos.

"Collecting something very rare and unusual from worlds never heard of before became a high art form among the wealthy and powerful during the 17th century in the Netherlands,which was the most advanced nation in the world then. Prized collections were shown off in their cabinet of curiosities. Among them were mermaids, dragons and other monstorous creatures created by specialized artists," he explained.

Finding these artworks intriguing, eight-year-old Yamada created his first rogue taxidermy piece: a two-headed lizard made by gluing incomplete mummified body parts together. Since then, he has created thousands of new pieces, including a sixfoot, eight-legged spider dog; a seven-fingered mummified alien hand; and a 32-foot sea serpent. Just like the artists who created work for the cabinet of curiosities in the past, the mediums Yamada uses are quite real. Many specimens are found at the creek and beach near his hometown of Coney Island, New York. "Anything can be art supplies for artists," he explained. "Using the body parts of plants, animals, and humans for creating artworks has been done for many centuries around the world."

Yamada credits former faculty member Albert "Abby" Sangiamo and Painting Department faculty member Michael Economos as the greatest art teachers and inspirations in his life. "It was truly an honor and a privilege to learn from them in person at MICA," he said. 

Yamada was trained, certified, and has been internationally accomplished in four fields: medical assistant, technical interpreter, educator, and artist. He has won more than 60 awards, recognitions, and nominations-including keys to the cities of New Orleans and Gary, Indiana. Yamada has also taught classes and given lectures at more than 40 educational institutions throughout the globe. Yamada's sideshow taxidermy artworks and giant banners are seen at state fairs and festivals throughout the country-he contributes to more than 100 of these shows annually.

Caught In The Act: Takeshi Yamada, Rogue Taxidermist


Image caption: Takeshi Yamada '85 in front of some of his taxidermy creations. (Photo by Leslie van Stelten)