With roots which trace back to an actual samurai clan, the story of Takeshi Yamada begins in Osaka, Japan. He was born there in 1960 and his passion for artwork started at age 12 thanks to a gift from his father. The early paintings he created at that age led to him deciding on art as a career path later in his teens. Said path eventually led him to America in 1983, where he studied at the California College of the Arts and later at the Maryland Institute College of Art. After obtaining his Bachelor of Fine Art, he went to the University of Michigan School of Art & Design to earn his Master’s degree. His incredible photorealistic paintings, including one of a grindhouse theater in New York, naturally resulted in his work being the subject of many one-man exhibits and displayed in several museums. He is also responsible for several posters, calendar illustrations and even a mural at Six Flags America! But he was not content with mastering one form of artistic expression. That’s when he entered the world of “rogue taxidermy” and sideshow gaffs.
To put it simply, “rogue taxidermy” is the use of taxidermy to create fake animals. Sometimes only actual animal parts are used and sometime other materials are used as well. This is different from a sideshow gaff, which is a completely artificial creation. The concept is hardly new, as the corpses of “baby dragons” were created in medieval times using dead lizards with bat wings sewn onto their bodies. The popularity of such hoaxes even resulted in British scientists initially regarding the platypus as a potential hoax when they were first presented the remains of one in 1798! However, the status of this technique as a valid work of art rather than carnival hucksterism is fairly new. The Rogue Taxidermy website describes it as a form of “pop-surrealist art characterized by mixed media sculptures” and Yamada himself goes into more detail about it in the following videos from IGN and BRIC TV:
His “Museum of World Wonders” is currently spread across three separate Flickr accounts devoted to his creations (in addition to his previously linked personal website). These popular works have also inspired countless others to use his techniques in their prop projects in addition to getting him recognized as one of the biggest names in the sideshow gaff business. Bizarrely, his only film credits appear to be for appearances in a few documentaries. Low budget horror filmmakers should be fighting each other tooth and nail in order to secure his talents for their movies. So spread the word about his work and hopefully we’ll see more of Dr. Yamada on screen. If not, at least we still can appreciate his works in their traditional settings.
The Michigan Alumnus, May/June 1988. “From East To West: Artist Takeshi Yamada Is On The Move.” Sue Burris.
Takeshi Yamada – Wikipedia
MUSEUM OF WORLD WONDERS 1 | Flickr
MUSEUM OF WORLD WONDERS 2 | Flickr
MUSEUM OF WORLD WONDERS 3 | Flickr
Propnomicon: From Beyond
Propnomicon: The Yamada Texts
Takeshi Yamada – IMDb