Mousing Around: A Conversation with Janiece Maddox
Interview by Alex Kramer
Photos by Vivian Le
Janiece Maddox is a sophomore at the University of Iowa with an atypical hobby.
The following is a conversation between one of Fools’ Visual Artist Janiece Maddox and former Fools Editor Alex Kramer discussing Maddox’s ability to turn something dead into a beautiful work of art. Maddox has found a unique outlet for her creative endeavors through taxidermy.
Maddox recreated Fools Magazine’s first four covers with taxidermy mice.
Fools: How long have you been doing taxidermy?
Maddox: A little bit over a year.
F: What made you interested in it?
M: Seeing professionals do it was so, so crazy. It looked easy, from the perspective of just skinning an animal and putting it on something. I’m not too bad at sculpting so I felt like it should have been simple enough. So I thought, why not?
F: What has been the strangest thing you’ve figured out from doing taxidermy that you didn’t think you would encounter?
M: I guess thinking about with any mammal, when you cut their skin, there are layers. Like actual layers. People have dermis, epidermis, that stuff. So for other animals, you never see any of their organs. You would think cutting something open, you would see some of their organs – heart, lungs, everything – but you never do. It’s all encapsulated in their own layer.
F: So you’re not dissecting anything?
M: No! *laughs*
F: What is the appeal in making this type of art?
M: I used to be Pre-Med. So during dissections and labs, I was always so interested. I’ve never been grossed out by stuff like this, anatomy-type things. So back when I actually cared about medicine and wanted to do Pre-Med, why not combine [medicine and visual art] and see what would happen. I don’t care about the medicine part anymore … but I still think it’s cool.
F: How does this reflect your view on animals?
M: This is completely, 100 percent an appreciation of them. If I wanted to, I could have figured out a way to get another type of animal but I’ve always felt like mice and rats were like the outcasts of animals. Everyone thinks they’re so disgusting and fiendish little creatures. But I’ve always loved them. I always thought they were cute. I feel like with anything, everyone’s always trying to run away from things that make them uncomfortable but I think why not run towards it instead?
F: One last question – what do you do with the finished product?
M: I’ve got a couple of them in my house. I’ve got one that I keep in a little flower pot, it’s just skinned and stuffed with dirt and there’s just a little flower in it. So I guess just for aesthetic. *Laughs*
But for the insides, back home I used to give them back to stores so they can feed them to pets – their snakes and stuff there. Nothing is going to waste, it’s not like they need the hair to eat them. Since being in Iowa City, I haven’t reached out to anyone to see if they’ll take them. So I just throw them outside, let nature have its way.