Wendy Simon has been told she has a dark side. To balance the scales, the mixed media sculptural artist says she creates realistic-yet-whimsical cartoon taxidermy animal sculptures to bring joy to others, including herself.
“The light-hearted presence of each character lifts my mood and the family friendly theme is very important to me, as well,” Wendy says. “In this culture with so much heavy emotion and disquiet, my art helps to bring a few moments of joy.”
The Frankfort-based Indiana Artisan uses air dry clay to create framed animal heads. Each one has riveting eyes and flirtatious eyelashes, sports a handmade hat and is decked out in accessories. Every animal is named, and the artist adds a comment about their personality.
Wendy says she doesn’t want her cartoonish trophy mounts to mimic other artists, but being original isn’t exactly her goal either. Instead, she’s inspired by the wonder of “can I really make this idea a reality?”
“I just listen to my own voice and try to be true to what I like,” she says. “Animal art is popular, but I want to make my animal art my way, using my own voice.”
After leaving her administrative assistant job to help her son, who is on the autism spectrum, transition to middle school, Wendy decided to get serious about her art. She discovered air dry clay in 2013 and made her first trophy mount in 2016.
“I realized that animals, as a focus for my art, made for a great connection with my son. He could feel involved and work on conversation skills with me through my art, because of his love of animals,” Wendy says.
As the artist re-imagines fabric, paper clay, polymer clay, resin, and found objects into characters with personalities of their own, Wendy’s artwork truly becomes a family affair.
“My art wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for my family. Daily and continually, my husband, son, daughter and her husband all encourage and lend a hand whenever needed,” Wendy says. “I’m privileged to get to do what I do, no doubt.”
Feeling a generational connection to her Hoosier roots, Wendy says she shares that same drive to make things happen through hard work and ingenuity. She applied to Indiana Artisan so she could receive constructive feedback on how to improve her artwork.
“Personally, I admire artists and the bravery to do what they do with originality and at a high level,” she says. “The motivation was more a plan of what can I do better rather than thinking I would get in. Humbling is the one word that comes to mind … To be included in a group that shares and supports originality is a bit mind blowing.”
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“The reception my work receives from the public is such a great joy. I just can’t believe I get to do this. I’m in awe over the fact there are actually people who love what I make.”
A member of Indiana Artisan.