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Growing up in New York City gave me a particular perspective on animals. I remember seeing lots of dogs as they were being walked around our block, lots of pigeons and squirrels. I also remember trips to the Central Park Zoo, where my delight at seeing so many different creatures was diminished by the bleakness of their cages and habitats.

I have much happier memories of my visits to the Museum of Natural History, where I was endlessly fascinated with the dioramas that combined taxidermy, props, and painting.

When I first saw a collection of aged taxidermed animals in storage at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, Massachusetts, I was instantly reminded of the trips to the museum. Most of the animals were in rough shape; time had not been on their side. But they were evocative in their disrepair, and I wanted to portray them.

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