We had the good fortune of connecting with Connie Lail- Cortez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Connie, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Have you ever had a dream, or nightmare rather, that you were falling? That sinking, drowning desperation that you can’t stop yourself no matter how much you’re reaching for a stray branch, a kind hand, or a damn trampoline to break your fall?? Well, that’s how my life has felt whenever I’ve attempted to hold a “regular” job. My anthropomorphic taxidermy combines all the things I love the most- Taxidermy, sewing, miniatures, and the macabre. It’s truly the only thing that helps keep my sanity. Crafting is a fun stress reliever, and you get a great sense of pride when you’ve completed something with your hands. As long as I can remember I’ve always been a little bananas for crafting, a real “handmade is better than store bought,” kind of gal. When I was a kid, my grandmother had the most amazing craft room; drawers and drawers of wood pieces, empty spaghetti sauce jars, broken clothes pins, old pill vials full of beads, stray buttons, dried flowers and fabric galore! Grams believed that pretty much anything could be recycled into art, and that is something I now teach my children. Sure, some might call it hoarding, but I dare them not to enjoy my spaghetti jar pin cushions!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I create anthropomorphic taxidermy, which is preparing and preserving deceased animals in a way that gives them human-like characteristics. Basically, I pick up roadkill and turn it into your forever friend. I’m definitely not the only person in LA that does what I do, but I do what I do in my own way. My husband works in termite damage and pest control, so he often gets a call from home owners in need of dead material removal and pest pick up, which is a lovely source of specimens for us and dinner for our flesh eating beetle colony. Aside from that, we pick up roadkill, take in pet donations, and on occasion, our Instagram friends send us videos or messages about dead stuff they find and don’t know what to do with. Rat hunter extraordinaire, Bela (our cat) frequently graces us with her victims, although we rarely find all the pieces for display. We hunt through estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and obscure craft stores to complete the anatomy of my artwork. Whatever pieces we can’t find, I create from wood, clay, and weird odds n ends I have around the house that I can re-purpose for my needs. I use damaged antique radios, Televisions, clocks and wine boxes to create dioramas and dollhouses, and I collect antique frames to display the bones that the beetles clean.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Every artist goes through their share of obstacles, and having someone in your corner means the world. My family is my support system, without them I wouldn’t be brave enough to share my artwork. My husband, Ozzy, supports every crazy idea I have and no matter how risky or expensive a venture is, he always helps me figure out a way to make my vision happen. My two kids Lucy and Oliver are like my creative editors, I share a new piece with them to get their honest, and sometimes harsh critique (haha). The three of them accompany me to my vending events and join me in hikes to find bones and insects. My best friend, Gloribel, has always been a huge supporter of my work; early morning events, conventions, and crappy bar gigs, she’s been to them all in support. She owns a large amount of my work as well. Having their support and love means everything to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them. I am so excited for what the future holds for us.