Playing God: Nate Hill, A.D.A.M and E.V.E.

Forget the Bible, this is Brooklyn and New Yorkers don’t generally go by the books. Sure, the mega-developments in Williamsburg could be likened to modern day towers of Babel, and there are probably enough dead things floating in Newtown Creek to breed more plagues than you could shake a staff at. But if our metropolis is in fact some sort of post-industrial Eden, then let me introduce you to your new God.

Legend has it that the Lord created all the beasts of the field, and all the birds of the air, and presented them to man to give them their names. And then along came Nate Hill, a rogue urban taxidermist, to take all of God’s original creations and mix their bones, feathers, flesh and innards, to strip their skins and sew them together again, to crack their ribs and combine their carcasses, and finally, to create human beings out of miscellaneous animal parts.

And so A.D.A.M. and E.V.E. were born. And it was good.

On Halloween night, Hill unveiled the second half of his most ambitious experimental taxidermy endeavor to date: the A.D.A.M. and E.V.E. project. In January, Hill presented A.D.A.M. (A Dead Animal Man) to the world and, last Friday at the Silent Barn in Bushwick, introduced Brooklyn to A.D.A.M’s female counterpart, E.V.E. (Earthly View of Eden).

Both A.D.A.M and E.V.E. are life-sized and made up of a wide array of different animals species ranging from bird to buffalo, cat to coyote, ox to octopus, shrimp to squirrel. Some of the specimens were found while others had to be special-ordered. Despite the unapologetically bizarre materials, both sculptures are anatomically correct, not to mention chillingly life-like.

“All my work is built around the idea of imitating god,” Hill said. “A.D.A.M and E.V.E. are all about aspiring to those ultimate creative abilities. I started out by trying to make my own animals in order to create my own animal kingdom, and now I’ve spread out to making my own people.”

Based out of his apartment/studio in Bed-Stuy, Hill has managed to make quite a name for himself in the Brooklyn art world over the years by creating sculptures of “new animals” using body parts of dead ones, typically dug out of the trash in Chinatown. In mid-2007 Hill began giving Chinatown garbage tours to those interested in learning about the process of urban DIY taxidermy, during which he would dress in costume and assume different roles. Though his projects usually culminate in some sort of gallery show, Hill sees himself as more of a performance artists than anything else.

“My work is kind of funny,” Hill said. “I don’t even know if you could call it art, it might be performance art. It’s always more about the actual event than posterity. Like, with A.D.A.M. and E.V.E., it’s performative: they aren’t commodities, you can’t take them home. People don’t even want them as gifts. And with the trash tours, I would wear different costumes and put on a show. People gravitate towards my work because it’s entertaining. If it wasn’t entertaining, I’d just be some guy digging through the trash; And if it wasn’t presented in an artists’ studio, I’m sure people would be totally weirded out.”

Despite the mastery of Hill’s work, he has had no formal taxidermy training and initially got into the craft, strangely enough, for a girl.

“I got into this whole thing when I had a crush on this girl in college almost ten years ago,” Hill said. “She was cutting up animals and stapling them back together. I wanted to impress her so I went out and I got a possum, and I attached the hand to the tail and I gave it to her. We never dated or anything, but she gave me information about how to keep doing it, and I did.”

Now that the A.D.A.M and E.V.E. projects have been unveiled (and are currently resting in a 30-gallon tank of alcohol in Hill’s closet), Hill is toying with the idea of taking a break from taxidermy in order to focus on another artistic medium, albeit also unconventional: food.

“You know, I’m actually getting out of taxidermy, I think I’ve had enough,” Hill said. “Taxidermy can be a little off-putting sometimes. Now, I’m going to start making foods, new types of meat. With my other projects, you could see a new animal. Now, I want people to be able to eat a new animal. I’m going to create a character who feeds you new animals. I’m seeing a guy who goes around with a street vendor cart.”

Hill’s first culinary foray is entitled, Fish N’ Chicks, and consists of a blended batter of fish and chicken meat, fried into nuggets. In the future, Hill plans to experiment with many different types and combinations of meats.

“I think it’s time to do something a little friendlier for a change. I want to feed the homeless,” Hill said. “But I’ll tell you, it’s going to be ridiculous. Really, really ridiculous.”

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