Baton Rouge has make themselves known for its growing art scene, but a new niche group is on the rise: the obscure art community. From cobweb jewelry to preserved framed butterflies, oddities are embraced by local makers who draw inspiration from nature’s curiosities.
Bringing their own spin on taxidermy, these artists ethically source them from shrines and even roadside and encase them in vintage frames and glass domes. Their goal is to create new life out of materials that might otherwise have been buried or forgotten.
Recently, they launched the Obscure Art Market pop-up, where they can sell their wares and connect with the community. From dried animal hearts to bleached jawbones with teeth still intact, these items are suitable for the spooky season, but can also add something unique to home decor all year round. Meet these Baton Rouge creators who transform past creatures into conversational art.
Story Berthier tries to make death as pretty as possible. From framed vertebrae to stuffed parakeet heads, Berthier strives to commemorate the creatures she works with by creating art that freezes them in time. Almost every creature is given a name so it can live out its new life as a work of art.
“I try to capture the beauty of nature even after it’s gone,” she says. “I’ve always been a weird little kid. Looking back, I’ve always picked up stuff. I have always been intrigued by insects and I will never be the one to harm the spider.
Berthier started his business, Odd Storyland, selling colorful gemstone jewelry. It has since expanded to include pet memorials, pinned insects, and other oddities that Berthier finds fascinating. She imagines creative ways to display her art in objects like chewing gum dispensers, clocks and candle lanterns. Berthier creates his own jewelry, which now consists of chains holding gothic pendants and corked jars containing bones, teeth and dried flowers.
“My mission is to preserve things that usually scare people and try to make them look pretty,” she says.
Fans can buy her creations through her Instagram page and see her in local pop-ups like Obscure Art Market. instagram.com/oddstoryland
Shantell Gomez remembers her mother’s greenhouse as the place that first sparked her curiosity about insects. While trapped in the hot space, the insects naturally died. Gomez would discover all types of dead insects, just like the ones she uses today to create art with her business, Framed Discoveries. What started as a part-time project has grown into a full-time business that now includes jewelry, domes and, of course, framed pieces.
“I don’t necessarily describe my art as scary,” she says. “I would describe it as a way of giving a kind of afterlife or seeing a kind of beauty after death. So I try to incorporate that into my pieces as much as possible.
Gomez draws his materials from nature or from sanctuaries. She says she keeps an eye out for bones as she walks her dogs along the seawall. She even got to keep dental pieces from her previous job as a vet tech, and she uses the scaly skin from the monthly sheds of a friend’s pet snake. Gomez makes sure to make full use of all of her materials, creating earrings and collages with broken wings and miscellaneous scraps.
After realizing there was a growing community of people who appreciate oddities and curiosities in Baton Rouge, Gomez led the first Obscure Art Market held in Brickyard South last July. This pop-up market specializes in oddities and works to bring this new artistic community together.
“I just wanted a pop-up that was all-inclusive,” she says. framedfindings.bigcartel.com
Arika Shaffett carries a pair of gloves and a bag with her wherever she goes. She wants to be ready in case she sees some animal skeletons on the roadside to use for her art. She even remembers one time when she was driving to buy driftwood in the countryside and saw a full goat skull on the side of the road. The skull was next to a live alligator, but Shaffett knew the find was too good to pass up.
“I pulled over, got out of the car, and was like, ‘I’m going to fight that alligator for that goat skull,'” she said. “And I still have this goat skull on display in my own cabinet of curiosities.”
As someone who loves plants and works with them on a daily basis, Shaffett first focused his business on plants, under the name Pot It Like It’s Hot. It has since renamed itself The Urban Flora, inspired by new life taking over what would naturally decay. Although Shaffett enjoys making pieces from insects and bones, she has also expanded her art to include other creations like repainted dolls, vintage pieces, and plants.
Find her at various pop-ups around town like the Obscure Art Market, The Pink Elephant crate sales, and events like this fall’s White Light Night and next spring’s Hot Art Cool Nights. Shaffett encourages everyone to give obscure artists a chance. She says people might be surprised and want to start their own collections. instagram.com/the.urban.flora
ABOUT THE EVENT
Dark Art Market
Baton Rouge’s Obscure Art Market welcomes those who love all things weird and sometimes scary. Creators define “dark art” as unconventional, sometimes dark objects transformed into beautiful creations. The event features taxidermy, antiques, jewelry, sculptures, and other works of art. Before Halloween, catch the next market on Saturday, October 22 at Brickyard South and the 13th Gate.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of 225 magazine.